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The Paying Guests
The Paying Guests
Price: 7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Absorbing and Entertaining Read, 28 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Paying Guests (Kindle Edition)
No Spoilers

Sarah Waters' entertaining latest novel takes us back to the London of 1922, four years after the end of the Great War, and focuses on Frances Wray, an unmarried twenty-six-year-old woman, who lives with her widowed mother in their once genteel home on Champion Hill. Now in financial difficulty after the death of Mr Wray, who was less than careful with his money, and the deaths of both of Frances' brothers in the war, Frances and her mother are forced to take in paying guests to make ends meet. Enter Leonard and Lilian Barber, with their 'refined elocution-class accents', their gramophone and their rather Bohemian-style 'bits and bobs' to brighten up their lodging rooms.

After initial misgivings (particularly when Mrs Barber, in her silk kimono and Turkish slippers, is decadent enough to want a bath at 10 o'clock on a Monday morning, and Mr Barber loiters in the Wray's kitchen and teases Frances with conversations peppered with barely concealed innuendoes) Frances gradually lets her inhibitions go, especially when Lilian, embarrassed after witnessing the well-bred Frances washing the hall floor on her hands and knees, offers to help with the housework. As Frances and Lillian become closer and a rapport between them grows, past experiences and confidences are exchanged between the pair, and Frances tells of an unsuccessful past love affair where "the love was wrung out of me", and Lilian shares some interesting secrets of her own. To reveal how their relationship progresses would spoil the story for prospective readers, but I will mention that it is not just sexual passion that drives this story forward, and in the course of this novel we experience a violent death and the gripping drama of the subsequent murder trial at the Old Bailey.

Sarah Waters is a consummate storyteller and her rendition of post WW1 London is atmospherically described, where no one is left entirely unscathed by the war, and where the streets of London are haunted by bedraggled ex-servicemen desperately seeking work. The Wrays' house itself plays an important role in this story and Frances's and Mrs Wray's fall from their previous genteel existence to one where they have to take in lodgers and where Frances has to take on work that was previously carried out by a live-in maid, is realistically portrayed and without sentimentality. When Frances is interrupted by Lilian Barber as she is scrubbing the hall floor, and sees the embarrassed look on her lodger's face, she reflects on how many times she has witnessed the same looks on the faces of her mother's friends "whom had got themselves through the worst war in human history, yet seemed unable to cope with the sight of a well-bred woman doing the work of a char."

This is a story of ordinary lives being turned into the extraordinary and a tale of guilt, remorse and moral responsibilities, but one with a love story at its heart. Absorbing, suspenseful and very entertaining, Sarah Waters' eagerly awaited latest novel is one that does not disappoint, and if you are looking for a engrossing love story with a difference then this should fit the bill nicely for you.


How to be Both
How to be Both
by Ali Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.44

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How to be Both, 27 Aug 2014
This review is from: How to be Both (Paperback)
No Spoilers.

I was more than a little intrigued when I first heard about this book, as I was given to understand that it has been printed in two versions - one version begins with teenager George, who is grieving after the sudden death of her mother, and then moves to the story of a fifteenth century painter, Francesco del Cossa, and the other version is printed the other way around. Or it may just be that there are two ways of reading this book - you can begin either at the first or the second section.

In my version I meet sixteen-year-old George first, who lives in Cambridge with her father and her younger brother, Henry. George's father, finding it difficult to cope with the death of his wife and unable to communicate his sense of loss to his daughter, is drinking heavily, and George, who is in shock and feeling lonely and confused, not only has to try to cope with her own pain and grief, but also that of her little brother.

The narrative shifts backwards and forwards in time, moving between a period before George's mother's death and afterwards. Through George's memories, the reader learns of the interesting and challenging conversations George had with her mother, and we also read about the time her mother took George out of school for an impromptu visit to a palazzo in Italy to see a Renaissance fresco, part of which was painted by Francesco del Cossa. Moving back to the present time, we read of George's counselling sessions, of her feeling that her mother was under some sort of surveillance, and where we learn of George's truancy from school so she can visit the National Gallery to study another example of Renaissance art painted by del Cossa.

George is a wonderful creation - she can be difficult, snippy and defiant, but she's also sensitive, creative and compassionate, as her concern for others, particularly her little brother, demonstrates. Ali Smith seems to have captured that difficult transitional period of adolescence particularly well and George's personality and her sense of loss and loneliness is sympathetically and realistically portrayed.

The second part of the story (which may be the first part of the story depending on which version you read) focuses on the artist Francesco del Cossa, who has been uprooted from the grave and arrives in the present day at the National Gallery, where George has arrived for another day's viewing. In this part of the novel we learn about the life of the talented fifteenth century painter, who is not quite as he initially seems and someone who learns 'how to be both'. And as the story moves from the fifteenth to the twenty first century, we see Francesco painting images on walls that will last for centuries and George taking digital images to build a temporary wall of her own; Francesco needs the help of an apprentice to compose art, George needs the help of a friend to break down her wall of grief.

This is an original and very unusual novel, composed in an unusual way, and it's also a novel that makes the reader work for their entertainment and understanding of the story. It's a tale of layers, underlayers and linked themes, of impressions and interpretations, and of how things are not always quite what they seem - and it's one that is difficult to pin down or to categorize. So, if you are looking for an undemanding and straightforward read to relax with, then this is most probably not one for you, and if you are looking for a story with a conventional structure and plot, then this may not suit you either, but if you let go of any expectations and just let yourself go with the story, you may find much to entertain and enjoy.

Whether I have grasped the intended meaning in this story is debatable, as is how much that ultimately matters, and I'm still wondering whether if I had read the alternative version to mine, I would have felt the same way about it overall, or whether I would have finished the book with a slightly different impression of the story. Would some of the events had greater or less significance depending on the order in which they had been read? I'm intrigued.


Man at the Helm
Man at the Helm
by Nina Stibbe
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Man at the Helm, 25 Aug 2014
This review is from: Man at the Helm (Paperback)
No Spoilers.

Nina Stibbe's first book:Love, Nina, was an engaging memoir comprising of a collection of letters written by the author to her sister during the 1980s when Nina worked in London as a nanny for Mary-Kay Wilmers, the editor of the London Review of Books, and was very well-received by readers and critics alike. This second book, 'Man at the Helm' is a semi-autobiographical novel which was written many years ago (and was actually shown to Alan Bennett when Nina was working for Mary-Kay Wilmers) and has now, after the success of 'Love Nina', been brought into the limelight. But is it as good as 'Love Nina'? I am pleased to say that it is - in fact I enjoyed this even more than the memoir.

It is the early 1970s, and Lizzie Vogel, the narrator of our story, is nine-years-old; her sister is eleven and her little brother, Jack is seven. When their attractive, but rather vague mother, discovers her husband has been having an affair, she launches herself at him across the kitchen table and the pair end up rolling around the floor amongst the spilt coffee, broken eggs and shards of wet 'Daily Telegraph'. After their undignified wrestling match, Lizzie's father moves out. "Poor Daddy" says Lizzie's sister unwisely. "Poor Daddy" her mother erupts " Poor Daddy is over the f***ing moon." The Vogels (without Mr Vogel, of course) have to leave their big family house and move into a rambling cottage in a village in Leicestershire, full of "grey curly-haired people with angry eyes and wellington boots." Ostracised by the villagers, who are alarmed by Mrs Vogel's divorced status (Brown Owl can't find room for the girls in the Brownies; Mrs Vogel's voice isn't needed for the choir; Lizzie's sister would like to join the Young Ornithologists but is turned away for being too old, yet when her brother tries to join, he is told he is too young) Lizzie's mother turns to drink, pill-popping and writing plays - after all, when you are an attractive, thirty-one-year-old woman and pretty much all alone, Lizzie tells us, it's not surprising that you would turn into a "menace and a drunk and a playwright." Worried that without 'a man at the helm' they will be taken into care, where they will be mistreated and fed nothing but spaghetti on toast, the two girls decide their mother needs a man and they compile a list of likely candidates (of which most of the men are already married, including the vicar) whom they intend to write to on behalf of their mother, and invite them to have a drink with her in the hopes that it will "lead to sexual intercourse and possibly marriage." What could possibly go wrong? Obviously I shall leave that for prospective readers to discover for themselves.

Lizzie is a wonderful narrator - a lovely mixture of innocence and wisdom, without being too precocious or over-sweet, and the character of Mrs Vogel, who is temperamentally unsuited to housework and laundry (I know the feeling), is brilliantly portrayed. This book has a hint of some of Nancy Mitford's or Dodie Smith's quirky novels, but Nina Stebbe has her own voice and her own brand of comedy and love of the absurd. I read this is one sitting, finding it an amusing, poignant, warm and very entertaining read. Recommended.


The Winter Guest
The Winter Guest
by Pam Jenoff
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Winter Guest, 24 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Winter Guest (Paperback)
No Spoilers.

It is 1940; we are in Poland, and eighteen-year-old Helena Nowak and her twin sister, Ruth, are left to bring up their younger brother and sisters, when their mother is hospitalised and their father dies soon afterwards. Living outside of the village of Bickowice, in a small, two-roomed cottage, the twins, who are almost identical in appearance, but of quite different temperaments, struggle to feed themselves and their siblings on their meagre rations, especially as Helena has to take extra food to the hospital for their mother. The hospital is situated in Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter of the city of Kraków, the only place where Helena's father was able to find an affordable hospital bed, and just by visiting her mother, Helena is putting herself in danger as she does not have the relevant papers to allow her to visit the city. Helena is aware that most of the Jews have been rounded up and removed from the Jewish quarter by the Nazis, but for the moment, the hospital has escaped their attentions, and it is travelling home one day from visiting her mother, that Helena discovers a wounded Allied paratrooper in the woods and helps him to hide in a deserted chapel not far from her home. Helena makes the decision to keep her discovery a secret, especially when she finds out that the soldier is an American Jew, and although she is very close to her sister, she knows that Ruth, being of a different temperament to her and worried for the safety of the rest of the family, will try to persuade Helena from offering any further help to the wounded man. So Helena, who is beginning to develop feelings for the attractive young man, and who is also having thoughts about her own role in the war, begins a deception that results in a rift between herself and her sister - a rift which causes a betrayal that puts all of them in great potential danger. (No spoilers - we learn most of this and more fairly early on in the novel).

Initially related in a first-person narrative from the perspective of Helena as an elderly lady, Pam Jenoff's romantic story moves back in time to the 1940s and switches to a third person narrative for the main part of the story, and was a quick and very easy read. I must admit that I did not buy this book - I picked it up from a friend's bookshelf whilst babysitting and never having read anything by the author, I decided to give it a try, and read the whole book in one sitting. I hesitate to criticize, as romantic fiction is not my preferred genre of reading matter, and I did wonder whilst reading it whether this novel was intended for young adults, but my friend says not. Therefore, I will admit to finding parts of this novel fairly predictable and other parts not entirely convincing - I can't explain fully without revealing spoilers, but I will mention that Helena's success at contacting the Polish resistance at a first attempt was just not credible and there were other aspects to the story that were unconvincing. That said, this novel was very easy to read, it doesn't shift back and forth in time, so you are always sure of exactly where you are in the story, and the author created an interesting dilemma for Helena by making her choose between keeping herself and her much-loved younger siblings safe, or making the decision to help with the resistance - she is forced to ask herself how could she expect the Allied forces to help Poland and its people, if the Poles were not prepared to help themselves. It was also interesting to see how Helena's feelings towards Jewish people altered during the course of the novel, but I wish this and other aspects of the story had been explored in more depth. In summary, if you are looking for an undemanding historical romance for down-time or bedtime reading and you have enjoyed Pam Jenoff's other novels, then this may well fit the bill, but I do have to say that personally I would have liked to have seen the author create a deeper and more convincing story with her material.

2.5 Stars.


Shirley Williams: The Biography
Shirley Williams: The Biography
by Mark Peel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shirley Williams: The Biography, 24 Aug 2014
Mark Peel first met Shirley Williams in 2000, when he interviewed her for his biography of Methodist minister Donald Soper, and when he inquired whether she would be interested in allowing him to write her biography, he was delighted when she consented to his request. Subsequently Mr Peel spent the next ten years on his researches with full access to Mrs Williams' papers and she also made herself readily available to Mr Peel to answer his questions. The result is this well-researched, well-written and, it must be said, admiring biography of one of Britain's most well-known politicians.

Born in 1930, the daughter of political scientist and philosopher, George Catlin, and Vera Brittain, the author of the autobiographical Testament of Youth, Shirley had an unconventional upbringing and, being a bright, precocious child, was allowed free access to her father's library and was encouraged by both parents to have a social conscience and to never think of herself as inferior to men. During WWII, Shirley was sent to America with her older brother, John, where she became very popular with both the adults and children she met there, but she returned to England before the end of the war, and it was in London during an air raid, that she found herself in the same shelter as Herbert Morrison, the Home Secretary. During the raid, for two hours until the all clear was given, Shirley engaged the Home Secretary in animated conversation, giving him the benefit of her advice on a range of subjects. Herbert Morrison was so impressed by the young teenager's precious intelligence that he invited her to lunch at the Home Office. Before agreeing to attend, however, Shirley needed reassurance from her mother that she wasn't receiving preferential attention, and over lunch told the Home Secretary that she didn't judge people by their class, but by their intelligence. When Shirley reached the age of sixteen - the minimum age for membership - she joined the Labour Party and whilst still a teenager became the Labour Agent for Chelsea.

At Somerville College, Oxford, where Shirley was awarded a scholarship to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics, she was a popular student who played an active part in university life and took it upon herself to start a campaign to get women elected to the Oxford Union. After graduating from Oxford, she won a Smith-Mundt Scholarship to study at Columbia University in New York, and a Fulbright Travel Scholarship, after which she returned to the UK and worked as a journalist and, at the age of twenty-two, became the youngest ever female candidate for Labour. In 1955 Shirley married Bernard Williams, a philosophy don, and in 1958 they moved to Ghana, where Bernard had been invited to teach philosophy, and where Shirley too began teaching when she became a tutor in Economics. Back in England, after suffering more than one miscarriage, Shirley gave birth to a daughter, Rebecca, in 1961, but motherhood did not curb her political ambitions and in 1964 Shirley was elected to parliament.

Mark Peel's biography continues by informing the reader how Shirley Williams climbed the political ladder, of how she became a Labour cabinet minister, of her political triumphs and failures, of her lack of success in achieving her ambition of becoming the leader of the party, and of her surprising decision to leave the Labour Party to form the Social Democratic Party. We also learn something about the personal triumphs and personal disappointments experienced by Mrs Williams, but Mr Peel does not delve too deeply or tell us anything more about his subject's personal life than we need to know. As commented earlier, this biography is well-researched, well-written and is a very readable account of a very interesting woman; it is also a very sympathetic account and with sentences such as: "As a speaker she employed her angelic tongue with mesmerising effect to express enlightened sentiments with passionate sincerity", Mark Peel does not attempt to hide his admiration for his subject. But then there is a lot to admire about Shirley Williams, and although some of us may not necessarily agree with all of her policies and past political decisions, I think most readers, especially after reading this book, would acknowledge the importance of Shirley Williams' contribution to British politics. I am now interested in reading the autobiography:Climbing The Bookshelves: The autobiography of Shirley Williams.

4 Stars.


Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life
Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life
Price: 2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Engaging, 22 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In 1982, Nina Stibbe worked as a nanny for the two sons of Mary-Kay Wilmers, the editor of the London Review of Books, and she lived with the family in what sounds a lovely house at number 55 Gloucester Crescent, in north west London. Nina's responsibilities included: taking care of ten-year-old Sam, who had Riley-Day Syndrome (a condition which affects the nervous system) and his younger brother, nine-year-old Will; some of the cooking (the results of which were of varying success); and some of the housework (of which Nina managed to avoid almost entirely, resulting in Mary-Kay having to employ a 'proper' cleaner). This amusing and entertaining book is comprised of a collection of the letters Nina sent to her sister, Vic, about her life at Gloucester Crescent, where Mary-Kay's neighbours included: Alan Bennett, who regularly popped in for supper, sometimes bringing his own contributions; biographer Claire Tomalin and her partner, novelist and playwright, Michael Frayn; Jonathan Miller, the theatre and opera director (who Nina, on hearing people saying "Have you heard Jonathan's 'Rigoletto'?" mistakenly thought he must be an opera singer); and novelist Deborah Moggach, who lived across the street and who Nina was able to see tapping away writing her novels. When Nina arrived in London fresh from the Leicestershire countryside, she hadn't even heard of most of these people and certainly knew nothing about literary London. But she did get on well with the inhabitants of number 55 and she soon became practically a member of the family - when Nina stopped nannying the boys and moved out when she began studying for an English degree at Thames Polytechnic, she was a constant visitor to number 55 and, after a time, moved back in with Mary-Kay and the boys.

Through Nina's 'down-to-earth' letters to her sister, the reader learns about the everyday, and not so everyday events, that went on at Gloucester Crescent and we also become party to the conversations of this articulate group of people which took place around the kitchen table - Nina obviously chose the most entertaining to include in her letters, but even the more mundane aspects of family life at number 55 often seemed to develop into amusing situations and discussions:

Mary-Kay: People are only horrible if they're hungry or unhappy.
Will: That could be anyone.
MK: Yes.
Will: Everyone.
MK: Yes.
Will: At any time.
MK: Yes.
Sam: They just need a banana.
MK: Exactly.

And:

Alan Bennet (on Nina's stew that she cooked for hours)
AB: Very nice, but you don't really want tinned tomatoes in a beef stew.
Nina: It's a Hunter's Stew.
AB: You don't want tinned tomatoes in it, whoever's it is.

Wonderfully observed and deftly described, Nina Stibbe obviously has a very good eye and ear for comic details and for the absurdities of everyday life, making this an engaging, entertaining and, in places, a heartwarming read, ideal for those times when you want something undemanding and amusing. I notice the author has her first novel coming out very soon:Man at the Helm. I wonder how her comedic talents will transfer to fiction and although my 'to be read pile' is huge, I must admit to being very tempted to add Nina Stibbe's debut novel to that pile.

4 Stars.


May Sarton: A Biography
May Sarton: A Biography
by Margot Peters
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars May Sarton: A Biography, 20 Aug 2014
May Sarton (1912-1995) poet, novelist and diarist, worried during the latter part of her life, how her life might be depicted by a biographer, and her fears were probably justified - not solely because some biographers can be very determined in their quest for details, but because May Sarton knew herself that her past life, and her behaviour during that life, could be open to criticism. But then it is not many people who, having lived a full, productive and passionate life, would not liable to criticism in some respects.

May Sarton was born in 1912 in Belgium, to a Belgian father and an English mother. Her father, George Sarton, was an academic who spent a large part of his life writing a history of science and both of May's parents were, to varying levels, too preoccupied with their own lives to provide May with the amount of love and attention she required, especially as she was a needy and demanding child. Her mother, Mabel, was often ill and May was sent to friends and relatives to be cared for, and this lack of parental involvement meant that the needy and demanding child grew into an adult whose insecurities and instabilities dogged her throughout her life. The Sartons left Belgium after the outbreak of WW1 and eventually settled in America, where at nineteen, May became an actress, but after a time she decided that writing poetry was her destiny. May was already aware that she was attracted sexually to women, and to write poetry, May asserted, she needed a muse, and so began her many love affairs with a variety of women - not all of which were requited, or indeed, consummated, but most of which were tempestuous, passionate and complicated. Many of her love affairs overlapped - one of her lovers told May that she always had to have 'someone in reserve' and May admitted herself "I know only too well that I am a difficult and exasperating person. I can only say that I suffer real anguish and guilt because of my behaviour. But I think I know that if I really calmed down, I would have ceased to write, ceased to be a poet." Often seeming to prefer those women who resisted her advances, May was determined and single-minded in her pursuit, and although May's vibrant personality initially attracted people to her, she often lost friends and lovers because of her behaviour. A prolific writer of both poetry and novels, May Sarton's output was, at times, disparaged by fellow writers and she often received unfavourable or mediocre professional reviews, but she had many fans amongst the reading public who found her uplifting and inspirational. Her biographer comments that May Sarton's subject matters: the mysteries of the human mind and heart, will not go out of style, and finishes her biography with the words: "May Sarton will never be considered a great writer. But she is that equally rare phenomenon, an appealing writer whose work has the power to change readers' lives."

Margot Peters, who was authorized to write May Sarton's biography before Sarton's death, was granted full access to her papers, letters and diaries and she also interviewed May Sarton at length. This interesting and detailed biography appears to deal fairly with its subject and provides the reader with an insightful and seemingly honest picture of May Sarton, revealing that she was not quite the inspirational woman she appeared on the surface, but was full of insecurities and self-doubt. And although Ms Peters does not shy away from revealing details about her subject that often present her in a less than flattering light, she is not judgemental and provides well-reasoned theories as to why May Sarton was the person and the writer she was. I read the very attractively presented American hardback edition which is full of well-produced photographs of May Sarton and of those involved in her life, and found this a thoughtful, very interesting and absorbing portrait and one I would recommend.

4 Stars.


The Doll's House (Unabridged)
The Doll's House (Unabridged)
Offered by Audible Ltd
Price: 1.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Doll's House, 18 Aug 2014
In her short story 'The Doll's House' Katherine Mansfield returns to the Burnell family who featured in her stories: 'Prelude' and 'At the Bay'. The Burnell girls: Isabel, Kezia and Lettie, are sent a wonderful doll's house from a family friend; they are so proud of this house with its real windows, its porch and its papered rooms, that they cannot wait to get to school the next day to tell their friends. Nearly all of the girls at their school are gradually invited to see the amazing doll's house, except for two girls: Lil and Else Kelvey who, being the daughters of the local washerwoman (whose husband is possibly in prison) are ostracized from the rest of the class and are excluded from the treat. In the playground, one of the children questions poor Lil: "Is it true you're going to be a servant when you grow up?" and then: "Yah, yer father's in prison!" This short story is an entertaining but heartbreaking one, and anyone who has been the victim of any kind of bullying will recognize the feelings of vulnerability and victimisation experienced by the Kelvey sisters. But do the Burnells join in with the victimisation of Lil and Else? And is it just the children who are involved in ostracizing the Kelveys?

Katherine Mansfield has deservedly attained the reputation as one of the most talented writers of the modern short story, which considering she lived until she was only thirty four years old, is no mean feat. Due to illness and other difficult conditions the writer found herself in, some of her output was of varying quality, but at her best, she was brilliant. She was a perceptive, witty and innovative writer whose effective use of the stream of consciousness style narrative enabled her to reveal the vulnerabilities and complexities of her characters and of their inner lives. Like Virginia Woolf (who was rather envious of Mansfield's writing) Katherine Mansfield focused not so much on what happened to her characters, but on how those characters felt and, through her lyrical prose, she was able to convey her characters' thoughts and inner imaginings particularly well.

It is good to see Katherine Mansfield's short stories being produced as single downloads, as hopefully this will encourage new readers of her fiction to try some of her stories in an inexpensive format. However, if you have a Kindle and are interested in downloading more than three or four of the author's short stories, you might like to consider: Delphi Complete Works of Katherine Mansfield (Illustrated) This Kindle edition contains the complete works of Katherine Mansfield (including her stories, her poetry, her journals and more) and is exceptional value costing no more than a few of the separately produced titles. Either way, whether bought as a single download or as part of a collection, this deftly composed, rather discomfiting and poignant story, is well worth the read.


The Garden Party: Short Story
The Garden Party: Short Story
Price: 0.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Garden Party, 18 Aug 2014
In 'The Garden Party' Katherine Mansfield introduces the reader to the Sheridan family who are hosting a garden party in the grounds of their New Zealand family home. Mrs Sheridan decides to leave all of the arrangements to her grown-up children: "Forget I am your mother" she tells them "Treat me as an honoured guest." Laura, an artistic and sensitive girl, takes charge, but is worried about speaking to the burly men who have come to erect the marquee; however when she meets them and finds them quite friendly and one even takes the time to pick a sprig of lavender and inhale the pungent scent, she thinks of how extraordinarily nice workmen are and why couldn't she have workmen for her friends rather than the silly boys she dances with; she is sure she would get on much better with men like these. When she hears the sad news that one of the working men from the cottages at the end of their drive has been killed, she wonders whether they should cancel their garden party. Her sister, Jose, disagrees and tells her she is being extravagant, and their mother, whose only concern appears to be whether they have ordered enough canna lilies to make an impressive display, agrees with Jose and gives Laura a pretty hat to take her mind off the disagreeable incident. And so Laura asks herself, as she admires herself in the mirror wearing the pretty black hat trimmed with gold daisies and a long black velvet ribbon, would it really be terribly heartless for the garden party to go ahead?

Katherine Mansfield has deservedly attained the reputation as one of the most talented writers of the modern short story, which considering she lived until she was only thirty four years old, is no mean feat. Due to illness and other difficult conditions the writer found herself in, some of her output was of varying quality, but at her best, she was brilliant. She was a perceptive, witty and innovative writer whose effective use of the stream of consciousness style narrative enabled her to reveal the vulnerabilities and complexities of her characters and of their inner lives. Like Virginia Woolf (who was rather envious of Mansfield's writing) Katherine Mansfield focused not so much on what happened to her characters, but on how those characters felt and, through her lyrical prose, she was able to convey her characters' thoughts and inner imaginings particularly well.

It is good to see Katherine Mansfield's short stories being produced as Kindle Singles, as hopefully this will encourage new readers of her fiction to try some of her stories in an inexpensive format. However, if you are interested in downloading more than three or four of the author's short stories, you might like to consider: Delphi Complete Works of Katherine Mansfield (Illustrated). This Kindle edition contains the complete works of Katherine Mansfield (including her stories, her poetry, her journals and more) and is exceptional value costing no more than three or four of the separately produced titles. Also it's very easy to navigate your way through the Table of Contents if it is just the short stories you want to read. Either way, whether bought as a Kindle single or as part of a collection, 'The Garden Party' is a beautifully written story which, amongst other themes, looks at social class and the conflicts of the classes, and although I would have liked a slightly more defined or even challenging ending, it is a fine story and certainly well worth the read.


At the Bay: Short Story
At the Bay: Short Story
Price: 0.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At the Bay, 18 Aug 2014
'At the Bay' is one of Katherine Mansfield's longest short stories and is set in a seaside town in New Zealand, where several families are holidaying in beach bungalows situated along the coast. The story focuses in particular on the Burnell family: Stanley and his wife Linda; Linda's mother Mrs Fairfield; Aunt Beryl; and Stanley's and Linda's three daughters and baby son. After a richly descriptive piece of writing describing Crescent Bay, the story moves to Stanley Burnell taking an early morning swim (peeved to find someone has got there before him) before rushing off to work, involving the whole household in his endeavours to catch the coach on time. When he has finally left the bungalow, everyone heaves a sigh of relief: "Their very voices were changed as they called to one another; they sounded warm and loving and as if they shared a secret." Even Alice, the servant girl, washing the dishes catches the infection "Oh, these men!" said she, and plunged the teapot under the water even after it had stopped bubbling, as if it too were a man and drowning too good for it. While Stanley works, the children play on the beach, and Linda sits in a steamer chair in the garden with the baby, and wonders about love, life and motherhood. And then there is the beautiful, unmarried Aunt Beryl, who makes friends with the rather risqué Mrs Harry Kember, who chain-smokes and plays bridge all day, and has a much younger philandering husband who turns up one evening at the Burnell house and asks Beryl out for a walk in the moonlight.....

Katherine Mansfield has deservedly attained the reputation as one of the most talented writers of the modern short story, which considering she lived until she was only thirty four years old, is no mean feat. Due to illness and other difficult conditions the author found herself in, some of her output was of varying quality, but at her best, she was brilliant. She was a perceptive, witty and innovative writer whose effective use of the stream of consciousness style narrative enabled her to reveal the vulnerabilities and complexities of her characters and of their inner lives. Like Virginia Woolf (who was rather envious of Mansfield's writing) Katherine Mansfield focused not so much on what happened to her characters, but on how those characters felt and, through her lyrical prose, she was able to convey her characters' thoughts and inner imaginings particularly well.

It is good to see Katherine Mansfield's short stories being produced as Kindle Singles, as hopefully this will encourage new readers of her fiction to try some her of stories in an inexpensive format. However, if you are interested in downloading more than three or four of the author's short stories, you might like to consider: Delphi Complete Works of Katherine Mansfield (Illustrated). This Kindle edition contains the complete works of Katherine Mansfield (including her stories, her poetry, her journals and more) and is exceptional value costing no more than three or four of the separately produced titles. Also it's very easy to navigate your way through the Table of Contents if it is just the short stories you want to read. Either way, whether bought as a Kindle single or as part of a collection, this short story is well worth the read, and it's a story that makes one wonder whether if the author had lived longer, she would have written a full length novel.


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