Friday, February 10, 2012

The Rich Mrs. Burgoyne by Kathleen Thompson Norris


When I want light reading with substance, I turn to Kathleen Norris.  Not the poet/essayist, but the one who wrote novels at the turn of the 20th century.

At first glance the book appears to be a formulaic romance.  Rich widow moves to town, reforms (and wins the heart of) a handsome but lazy newspaper editor and lives happily ever after.  However, in The Rich Mrs. Burgoyne, the love story is peripheral and the emphasis in the book is on what it means to live well.  In fact, there is a strong, old-fashioned thread in the book on the value of motherhood and on children as one of life’s greatest riches.  So the title is a pun.  Is Mrs. Burgoyne happy because she is wealthy? Or because she has embraced a higher calling?

At one point in the novel, Mrs. Burgoyne makes the point that if every mother in the world would reach out to an unloved child, the world couldn’t help but be a better place.  You may call that simplistic, but as I pondered the idea, I didn’t find it too far afield from the biblical mandate to “love one’s neighbor.” If every Christian woman made it her goal to invest in the life of one other needy person, certainly, the impact would be tremendous.

The book takes an amusing look at mothers of all stripes.  Some are rich. Some are poor.  Most are more concerned with appearances than with their children’s spiritual welfare.  Mrs. Carew is described as someone who was so entirely absorbed in the pursuit of the “correct thing,” so anxious to read what was “being read,” to own what was “right,” that she never stopped to seriously consider her own or her daughter’s place in the universe. (p. 47) Happily, Mrs. Burgoyne’s example begins a new trend among the ladies in Santa Paloma.

We live in a culture that belittles motherhood and the sacrifices it requires.  I’m a fan of books that remind us that it is a valid and worthy career.  This title is available free on Kindle.

7 comments:

Gwenyth said...

Just tried to get it from Kindle. Not available to Australia :(

Janet said...

Thanks for the introduction to this author. This sounds interesting, especially in light of all the emphasis yesterday on "women's right to contraception". It all seems so sick... America is more concerned with removing barriers to responsibility-free love lives than with caring for the children who are produced.

Go quickly and tell said...

adding to my wishlist, or perhaps giving as a Mother's Day gift,

I thank you for this review, Hope.

Page Turner said...

Oh, this sounds like something I would love! I'll check out the free Kindle version right away!

Page Turner said...

Are there any other Kathleen Thompson Norris titles that you would recommend, seeing as there are a number of free ones available for the Kindle?

hopeinbrazil said...

To tell the truth, I've only read two of her books, The American Flaggs (yes, two g's), and The Rich Mrs. Burgoyne. Both start out like romance novels, but end up saying much more. I count vouch for her other books yet...

Anonymous said...

I've been reading Kathleen Thompson Norris's books since 1956. I've tryed to collect most of them, and I reread them all about once a year! My husband's aunt knew or knew of Kathleen Norris. Also my sister-in-law's mother had met her at a tea or luncheon. I love these books because she wrote about everything and everyone of her times and she was so down-to-earth! She really understood the heart of women everywhere. Her stories of large, Irish Families delight me, as my husband is Irish and his grandparents, whom he adored, came from County Cork, Ireland. She is my favorite author and I'll continue trying to find all of her novels!!!