I have been reading some of Katherine Mansfield’s short stories over the last month. Not having so much time for fiction right now, a short story is just the thing to read when you have a few minutes to spare. And why not turn to one of the best? Though Mansfield herself may have not thought so…
This is my first time reading her work and it is certainly not twaddle. I have to say that I loved many things about it, but that also I found it unsettling. She was disliked by many, and had a reputation for her biting wit. She is the kind of writer who gets under your skin and probably would have relished this effect.
Writing in the early 20th century, she focuses particularly on the limitations in the lives of women at that time, and on social class. I recognise some of those limitations in society still today. She explores the differences between external appearances and what lies beneath the surface. Her characters often come to learn some truth about themselves – though it is often painful. Insecurities are exposed with ruthless accuracy.
Her style is a joy to read. Rhythmical and full of wonderfully descriptive prose that makes you want to read some passages over again. She has the ability to bury herself deep into the psyche of her characters, their human frailty, their humour. And yet every time I finish a story I am left with a sense of sadness.
Sadness too at the brevity of her life. Katherine was diagnosed with tuberculosis at the age of 29 and died just 6 years later leaving this collection of short stories as her life’s work. I wonder what more she could have achieved if she had lived longer?
This edition includes all her work including several unfinished stories. There are many here. I haven’t read them all, but picked and chose those titles that appealed to me, including her most well known ‘The Garden Party’. Many of them are available to read on the Internet here: The Katherine Mansfield Society, and there is a free kindle book – The Garden Party and Other Stories if you are interested.
They are the kind of stories that linger in your mind long after finishing them. They make you think…
…and that’s why I most enjoyed them.