What’s it all about?:
One of the Bloomsbury set, Katherine Mansfield’s relationship with John Middleton Murry and her struggle to write the “new kind of fiction” of the time is the subject of this novel, an appealing portrait of a writer and her celebrated circle.
What did I think?:
I knew very little about Katherine Mansfield, a New Zealand born writer who is said to have defined the short story, before starting this novel. Now I have finished, it has left me feeling a bit more knowledgeable, but not fully satisfied. From what I can gather, the main fascination people have with her life is her on-off relationship with John/Jack Murry, and the way she left most men (and even some women) spellbound after meeting and having a conversation with her. She moved in very literary circles – counting D.H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf and Aldous Huxley as close friends, and it was interesting to get a small snapshot of their lives as well as Katherine’s. I was especially intrigued by Lawrence, and his fiery “love-hate” relationship with his wife. I never had him down as a wife beater you know?!
This novel is set over a three year period during the First World War which led to her beloved brother Leslie being killed. It seems to have been a constant prey upon Katherine’s mind, especially after his death and some of the descriptions of the country at war by the author are fascinating. We also hear of Katherine’s struggles with writing, dreaming of being able to write something that would blow people away – “a new kind of fiction,” as she calls it. I also enjoyed the fact that we can see her story from other individual perspectives, even if everybody seemed to be madly in love with her, like her lover Murry and D.H. Lawrence’s long-suffering wife. From this novel, it came across as if Katherine got slightly bored with men once the initial romantic element had dissipated, and didn’t seem to know her hearts own desire. Poor Jack, I felt quite sorry for him at times when Katherine’s feelings for him waxed and waned. I look forward to reading more about Katherine Mansfield and satisfying my curiosity on this matter and shall probably move onto her letters and journals next. To be continued!
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):