The Rich Mrs. BurgoyneMay 25, 2012
I have an enormous backlog of books to review again, but I also have jetlag, and a workday an hour longer than when I last posted, so bear with me. I’m starting with a book about which I have only good things to say. It’s called The Rich Mrs. Burgoyne, it’s by Kathleen Thompson Norris, and it’s a hell of a lot less depressing than the last book of hers I read.
It’s a familiar story — a woman arrives in a new town and proves to be an asset to it and its inhabitants — and one I like a lot. And this version of it is particularly charming.
Sidney Burgoyne is a widow with two young daughters when she buys the old Holly house on the most exclusive street in the town of Santa Paloma, and although the people there initially think of her as a stranger, she’s familiar in a couple of ways: first because she spent time there as a girl, and second because everyone’s heard of her wealthy inventor father and her wealthy diplomat husband and the eight million dollar fortune they’ve left her.
They other wealthy women on her street spend a lot of money keeping up with their neighbors, whether or not they can afford it, but Sidney manages to sidestep the expensive dinner parties, the expensive clothes, and the shallow Women’s Club activities, while still managing to be friendly, social, charitable, and extremely elegant. She also spends lots of time with her kids, gets to know all the families in the slums, and finances the attractive widower next door’s bid to take over the local newspaper — all while being fun and intelligent and not nearly as irritating as all that should make her.
The Rich Mrs. Burgoyne is very much a story with a moral, and there’s a lot of monologues about child-raising, but that stuff never seems intrusive. The story feels like it exists for its own sake, not in service of what the author thinks about the state of society, or whatever. And the characters are mostly delightful, and even the “bad” ones aren’t particularly bad. And for all the problems that arise, basically everyone ends up okay. You’re not going to learn how to fix society, or even how to raise your children, but why should you? The Rich Mrs. Burgoyne is delightful with no added incentives.