Katherine Mansfield

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Short Stories Challenge – A Married Man’s Story by Katherine Mansfield from the collection The Story, Love, Loss & The Lives of Women 100 Great Short Stories chosen by Victoria Hislop.

Published February 21, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s A Married Man’s Story all about?:

Featuring two centuries of women’s short fiction, ranging from established Queens of the short story like Alice Munro and Angela Carter, to contemporary rising stars like Miranda July and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, this is the biggest and most beautiful collection in print today.

Handpicked by one of the nation’s favourite novelists, Victoria Hislop – herself a great writer of, and champion for, short stories – and divided thematically into collections on love, loss and the lives of women, there’s a story for every mood, mindset and moment in life.

A Married Man’s story tells of a man who is unhappy in his marriage but unable to leave it which leads to him remembering events from his past.

What did I think?:

I was instantly attracted to this collection of short stories as they were picked and arranged by an author that I admire – Victoria Hislop, and spanned two hundred years worth of great women’s fiction. Hislop describes in the introduction that she split the stories into three sections: Love, Loss and The Lives of Women and the first story by Katherine Mansfield is the first in the “Love” section. Of course that does not necessarily guarantee a “happy” tale by any means as we all know that love can take many shapes and forms, perfectly demonstrated by Mansfield in the first story as she chooses to explore marriage from the eyes of a very complex (and desperately unhappy) married man.

As our unnamed male narrator is having the random thoughts that we are often familiar with in our daydreams, he is also observing his wife and child by the fire. His wife notices his restlessness and asks the loaded question: “What are you thinking?.” She is speaking rather timidly and tentatively as if fearing his response and when he answers that he was thinking of nothing, she mentions that he must have been thinking of something. Unfortunately this leads to him rebuking her even as her face “quivers.”

“Will she never grow accustomed to these simple – one might say – everyday little lies? Will she never learn not to expose herself – or to build up defences?”

So we find out our narrator is a very complicated man indeed. From comparing the shadow of his wife to a “Mother and Child” in his daydreams he seems to then turn on her in his thoughts and declare that he doesn’t see anything of the maternal in her at all. As he continues to think, we learn that he is very unhappy in his marriage and he believes his wife is too but neither of them will do anything about it. He explores the various reasons why people stay together i.e. for the children, for the habit, economic reasons, but in truth he believes that the two of them are “bound.”

A deeper reason may arise when our narrator starts thinking about his past which is a difficult thing for him to do. He remembers his childhood years with a weak and vulnerable mother confined to her room due to a traumatic birth and his father constantly busy in his pharmacy making potions for women to help them through hysterical periods. A lot of events are hazy and prove hard to recall but the one that stands out the most (and something I wasn’t expecting) is his mother who leaves her room for the first time to tell him that she had been poisoned by his father before dying of “heart failure” the next day. The rest of his childhood passes by with him feeling like an outcast, both in and out of his family home and suggests that the real reason he cannot end his marriage is that for once in his life he feels accepted and needed and is afraid to be alone again.

I’ve only read one other story by Katherine Mansfield which was also in my short stories challenge – Her First Ball but it is only with this tale that I’ve begun to appreciate the beauty in her style of writing. I was surprised to learn that this story is apparently unfinished as it felt quite adequate length and substance wise and it’s a shame we’ll never know what else she had to say. However, what she did write was evocative and incredibly intriguing and I loved exploring her narrator’s thoughts on love and marriage intertwined with the sad memories of his past loneliness. Even though he was fairly unreliable as a narrator, seeming to switch from points of view on his wife and life in general, he was a fascinating character to read about. It also made me wish that we had a second chapter on his wife’s points of view on the marriage as I began to feel quite sorry for her. If you’ve never read any Katherine Mansfield before, I’d recommend this story as a good place to start.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Barn At The End Of Our Term by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – January to March

Published January 9, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Another year over, and a new year of short stories begins! Here’s what I’m going to be reading each week until the end of March.

Week beginning 5th January

Magpies by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 12th January

A Married Man’s Story by Katherine Mansfield from the collection The Story, Love, Loss & The Lives of Women 100 Great Short Stories chosen by Victoria Hislop

Week beginning 19th January

The Barn At The End Of Our Term by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 26th January

The Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 1st February

She Murdered Mortal He by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 8th February

Demons by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner

Week beginning 15th February

The Ceiling by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 22nd February

Keeping Watch Over The Sheep by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 1st March

The Archduchess by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 8th March

The Oversoul by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 15th March

The Apple by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 22nd March

Martin Misunderstood by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 29th March

Cellists by Kazuo Ishiguro from the collection Nocturnes: Five Stories Of Music and Nightfall

Short Stories Challenge – Her First Ball by Katherine Mansfield, from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Published November 9, 2013 by bibliobeth

Stories to Get You Through the Night

What’s Her First Ball all about?:

Stories to Get You Through the Night is a collection to remedy life’s stresses and strains. Inside you will find writing from the greatest of classic and contemporary authors; stories that will brighten and inspire, move and delight, soothe and restore in equal measure. The first story in this collection, Her First Ball is by Katherine Mansfield and was first published in 1921 in The Sphere. It focuses on a young girl called Leila who has come to stay with her cousins and is about to attend her very first ball which leaves her both excited and terrified in equal measures.

What did I think?:

I have previously come across the author Katherine Mansfield in a fictionalised account of her life – Mansfield by C.K. Stead, and in her Letters and Journals, both of which I have reviewed fairly recently. I was pleased to come across this gorgeous little book with an example of one of her short fictions, and am glad to include it in my Short Stories Challenge. The collection itself is divided into a number of sections for the different stories, and Mansfield’s Her First Ball is included in the section under the sub-heading “Stories To Make You Feel Glad To Be Alive.” On finishing, I have to agree with the placement of this story. Mansfield writes a story that perfectly describes the anticipation and drama of youth, as our heroine Leila attends her first ball accompanied by her cousins who are already old-hands and incredibly “experienced” in the world of balls.

One thing that stood out for me in this story was the beauty of the poetic language Mansfield uses to describe Leila’s excitement at the events happening around her. She is acutely aware of all sensations, even prior to the ball during the cab ride, and while she is dancing with her anonymous partners:

“The azaleas were separate flowers no longer; they were white and pink flags streaming together”.

Balls at this time were the highlight of the social calender for the upper middle class, and were often a place to secure a future partner. I think Mansfield is being very clever in touching on this fact – was there nothing else for women except to dance and find a husband? Back to the story and as with life, reality hits. One of Leila’s partners (referred to as “the fat man”) informs Leila that she should enjoy her youth while she can, as “you can’t hope to last anything like as long as that….And your heart will ache, ache” – the fat man squeezed her closer still, as if he really was sorry for that poor heart –”because no one wants to kiss you now.” This dose of reality shocks and saddens Leila for a while as Mansfield reminds us that youth is fleeting, and eventually we all have to face the fact that we will grow older. In such a short space of time, the author creates a story with a bit of a dark side that celebrates life but urges caution for the future. I enjoyed watching Leila grow up over just  a few pages and become more adult as she embraces life with all its joys and inevitabilities.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Here There Be Tygers, by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Challenge: Short Stories October to December

Published October 4, 2013 by bibliobeth

What better way to end the year then by enjoying some more short stories? Here  is how I plan to spend the next three months:

Week beginning  7th October

Mr E. Morse, BA OXON (Failed) by Colin Dexter, from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime, Volume 7

Week beginning 14th October

Pilgrims by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 21st October

Her First Ball by Katherine Mansfield from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 28th October

Here There Be Tygers by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 4th November

Sister Hills by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Week beginning 11th November

Countless Stones by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 18th November

The Sea of Trees by Randy Taguchi from the collection Fujisan

Week beginning 25th November

Reeling for the Empire by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Week beginning 2nd December

The Red-Headed League by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 9th December

The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 16th December

The Strange Career of Dr. Raju Gopalarajan by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner

Week beginning 23rd December

Things That Fall From The Sky by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 30th December

In Winter The Sky by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Letters and Journals – Katherine Mansfield, C.K. Stead (editor)

Published August 27, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

This book contains a selection of letters and extracts from Katherine Mansfield’s journal. The book looks at the “tremendous trifles of life” – the funny, ridiculous and exasperating – as well as inhabiting a dimension that transcends the everyday. “The Letters and Journals of Katherine Mansfield” demonstrates how the author comes to terms with the problems of living and dying, pain and fear, loneliness, with her own creativity, with friendship and above all with the enduring love she had for her husband.

What did I think?:

I didn’t really know too much about Katherine Mansfield until earlier this year, when I noticed that her name kept cropping up in books I was reading. Then a book group that I participate in picked the book Mansfield by C.K. Stead, which is a fictionalised account of Katherine’s life, to read one month. I wasn’t entirely sure about that book (please see my post HERE), but it is only since reading the Letters and Journals, that a few pieces have slotted into place. Katherine Mansfield was originally from New Zealand, but spent a lot of her time in England and France, where she felt that she completed all of her best writing. She became famous mainly for her short stories, but also for her friendships with other literary persons such as D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, the latter being responsible for publishing some of her work. She contracted tuberculosis, which plagued her and left her bed-ridden at times, and led to her death at the untimely age of 34.

Unfortunately, I cannot really comment on Mansfield’s short fiction, haven’t not read any of it at the moment, but I plan to change this very soon. From her letters to her second husband Murry, and her journal entries, she comes across as a bright, vivacious, and entertaining person, with a beautifully descriptive way with language, even in her own private words. I particularly love the poem she wrote about her beloved brother, Leslie “Chummie” Beauchamp after he was killed in the war, fighting in France. The ending lines are particularly poignant:

By the remembered stream my brother stands
Waiting for me with berries in his hands…
“These are my body. Sister, take and eat.”

I think Katherine was an incredibly complex yet interesting person on the whole. She was clearly passionate about the people she loved, but appeared to be slightly flighty, and could switch loyalties as she chose. She separated from Murry a few times, although he certainly was the love of her life, and had some brief affairs which she seemed to plunge into feet first. I loved reading about her friendship with D.H. Lawrence, who used Katherine as his inspiration for Gudrun in his novel Women In Love, his fiery personality and tempestuous partnership with his wife was fascinating to read about. Although I did enjoy the writings of Katherine Mansfield, I probably wouldn’t read this book again, in parts it was fairly disjointed and difficult to take in, although I appreciate that sometimes it’s incredibly difficult to place letters in exact sequence of events! I will definitely try and slot in some of her work, as she seems to have captured my interest.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Mansfield – C.K. Stead

Published June 14, 2013 by bibliobeth

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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?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

WWW Wednesday #6

Published June 12, 2013 by bibliobeth

WWW Wednesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Click on the image to get to her blog!

WWW Wednesday time! Thanks to MizB for hosting at Should Be Reading.

To join in you need to answer 3 questions..

•What are you currently reading?

•What did you recently finish reading?

•What do you think you’ll read next?

Click on the book covers to take you to a link to find out more!

What are you currently reading?

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I’m about halfway through this novel about the life of the New Zealand born author Katherine Mansfield. I know very little about her so its a nice little introduction.

What did you recently finish reading?

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A decent psychological thriller that got a lot better halfway through, I recently published my joint review with my sister Chrissi HERE

What do you think you’ll read next?

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I am really excited about this one! Recommended to me by my sister, I managed to get a copy from NetGalley, and can’t wait to start it.

Please feel free to leave your WWW Wednesday, and I’ll pop over and see what you’re reading this week. Happy Reading Everyone!