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Mansfield: A Novel [Hardcover]

Dr C. K. Stead
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 May 2004
The three years in the life of the writer Katherine Mansfield explored in this novel are in part the story of the ups and downs of her relationship with Jack Middleton Murry and her struggle to write the "new kind of fiction" which she felt the times demanded. She is restless, constantly on the move, in and out of London, to and from France, even into the war zone to be with her French lover, novelist Francis Carco. For a short time, Mansfield is able to behave as though the war is merely "background", but her ardent relationship with her brother, who arrives from New Zealand to fight in France, makes detachment impossible - as does her love for Jack's Oxford friend Frederick Goodyear, also a soldier. The war's shadow remorselessly darkens all their lives, but only increases Mansfield's determination to break through as a writer. While sticking scrupulously to what is known about the lives of Mansfield and her friends (a cast that includes D. H. and Frieda Lawrence, Bertrand Russell, Dora Carrington, Lytton Strachey, Aldous Huxley, T. S. Eliot, Lady Ottoline Morrell and Virginia Woolf), this novel is extraordinary in taking the reader beyond the point of biography into the mind, emotions and sensibility of its subject. It is a sharp, subtle and appealing portrait of a writer and her celebrated circle.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Press (20 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843431769
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843431763
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,181,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A vivid and engrossing historical novel' -- Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

During the First World War the outstanding New Zealand writer, then a young woman, was in London, a part of the Bloomsbury set. She knew T. S. Eliot and Bertrand Russell, she was close to D. H. and Frieda Lawrence, and she was in and out of love with John Middleton Murry. Virginia Woolf wrote of Mansfield: "Hers was the only writing I was ever jealous of".

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A courageous woman 9 July 2006
Format:Paperback
CK Stead has, more than anyone,in other works helped us to understand the life of Katherine Mansfield and, more than that, to understand the times she lived in and the people she knew. He writes beautifully about the Great War and with deeply compassionate insight into KM's wilful,inventive character and intelligence. I loved the scenes with the Lawrences, already vividly told elsewhere by Stead, by Claire Tomalin ('Katherine Mansfield - A Secret Life') and in KM's own journals and letters. KM was extraordinary in every way: courageous, outrageous, extremely funny and of course wonderfully talented. My only reservation is that the story ends rather abruptly and there is a need to know about her illness and her death, recounted so movingly in his biography, 'The Life of Katherine Mansfield.'
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BLOOMSBURY GROUPIES 1 Mar 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
`What a funny place this is?' says one of the Bloomsbury Group's hangers-on to Katherine Mansfield (nee Kathleen Beauchamp, and one of the foremost modernist writers of her time). `Such brilliant people saying such silly things.''

This comment just about sums up - not this superbly punctilious portrayal of Katherine Mansfield's creative years by fellow New Zealander and Mansfield scholar, C K Stead - but the quite risible, overweening inconsequentiality of a group of writers who, like the Algonquin Round Table in a different time and place, were so utterly convinced that the sun shone out of their art.

Various members of the group are sighted here together with assorted camp-followers: Virginia Woolf, D H Lawrence, Lady Ottline Morell (on whom he based the man-eating Lady Chatterley), Aldous Huxley, Bertrand Russell, J M Keynes - and that other `bugger' (as the aforementioned hanger-on so describes him) the insufferably bitchy Lytton Strachey . . . every one of them housepartying for England while the world goes to hell in a handcart.

`Last night . . .' trills the same silly also-ran, `. . . we(took) a vote on whether the moon was a virgin or a harlot.'

Ah! time for Miss Mansfield to prove her mettle, I thought: because I really rate a lot of her stuff. How's she going to handle this latest bit of silliness.

Oh, dear! I was to be quickly disappointed. `How did it come out?' says she.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Researched, Intelligently Imagined 16 Dec 2010
By Marcus Aurelius - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you've read Mansfield's stories or even remember taking time out to read the wonderful biography by Antony Alpers, you may want to check this out. Stead takes a few imaginative liberties, but by and large the characterizations are well written: Mansfield, Murry, and the Lawrences may not be people you'd want to have to live with on a daily basis, but the book is well written, well paced, and makes for a good read.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BLOOMSBURY GROUPIES 28 Feb 2005
By Bill Keeth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
`What a funny place this is!' says one of the Bloomsbury Group's hangers-on to Katherine Mansfield (nee Kathleen Beauchamp, and one of the foremost modernist writers of her time). `Such brilliant people saying such silly things.''

This comment just about sums up - not this superbly punctilious portrayal of Katherine Mansfield's creative years by fellow New Zealander and Mansfield scholar C K Stead - but the quite laughable overweening inconsequentiality of a group of writers who, like the Algonquin Round Table in a different time and place, were so utterly convinced that the sun shone out of their art.

Various members of the group are sighted here together with assorted camp-followers: Virginia Woolf, D H Lawrence, Lady Ottline Morell on whom he based the man-eating Lady Chatterley, Aldous Huxley, Bertrand Russell, J M Keynes - and that other `bugger' (as the aforementioned hanger-on so describes him) the insufferably bitchy Lytton Strachey . . . every one of them housepartying for England while the world goes to hell in a handcart.

`Last night . . .' trills the same silly also-ran, `. . . we(took) a vote on whether the moon was a virgin or a harlot.'

Ah! time for Miss Mansfield to prove her mettle, I thought: because I really rate a lot of her stuff. How's she going to handle this latest bit of silliness.

Oh, dear! I was to be quickly disappointed. `How did it come out?' says she.

Plus points: there are some wonderful set pieces here - D H Lawrence and his wife Frieda having a domestic spat in the course of which they reveal themselves to be just as vain and childishly pathetic as lesser mortals having a domestic spat; and an achingly graphic depiction of the violent death in action during WWI of Katherine's beloved brother Leslie, and of Fred Goodyear being mortally wounded.

Kathleen Mansfield can write like an angel when the fancy takes her, and when a quite different fancy takes her, acts like a tramp. Consequently her lover of long-standing, John Middleton Murry, leads a veritable dog's life.

Leslie Beauchamp and Fred Goodyear apart, the men of her acquaintance are all principled pacifists, the principle in question being they are quite doggedly determined to dodge the draft. Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of her women friends are ninnies in need of assistance to boil an egg or run a hot bath. In fairness, though, it must be allowed that Katherine Mansfield isn't one of these, though she does appear to have developed a brand of existentialism for her own personal use: `I can,' you can almost hear her thinking, `therefore I will.'

And may the devil take the hindmost, which means, of course, poor, long-suffering, affable, almost totally ineffectual John Middleton Murry, who is unlucky enough to be Katherine Mansfield's artistic and intellectual inferior - and saddled with her.
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