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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ignored Brilliance
Virginia Woolf apparently was intimidated by the work of Katherine Mansfield and reading the collected short stories certainly gave me an idea of why contemporary Woolf was awed by the talent of Mansfield. There are brilliant glimpses into the human character evident in this work. Though it may seem more tempting to buy a smaller selection, for example "The Garden...
Published on 27 May 2001 by andreary@bolt.com

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Considerable Talent
This volume contains all of Katherine Mansfield's short stories, together with a number of unfinished fragments. She published three collections of stories in her lifetime, "In a German Pension" in 1911 and "Bliss" and "The Garden Party" in the early 1920s towards the end of her life; her husband John Middleton Murry was to publish two collections more after her death in...
Published on 4 July 2011 by J C E Hitchcock


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Considerable Talent, 4 July 2011
By 
J C E Hitchcock (Tunbridge Wells, Kent, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This volume contains all of Katherine Mansfield's short stories, together with a number of unfinished fragments. She published three collections of stories in her lifetime, "In a German Pension" in 1911 and "Bliss" and "The Garden Party" in the early 1920s towards the end of her life; her husband John Middleton Murry was to publish two collections more after her death in 1923 at the age of 34.

"In a German Pension" was based on Mansfield's experiences staying in such an establishment in Bad Wörishofen, Bavaria. Unusually for a work by an English-speaking writer, most of the characters in these stories are German, although Mansfield herself makes an occasional appearance as a detached, ironic observer. She herself was later to describe the collection as "immature", and her views of German life certainly seem jaundiced, even patronising. At times she seems to be pandering to the anti-German feelings which were so prominent in Britain in the years preceding the First World War. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to judge her too harshly, given that she would only have been 23 in 1911, and one or two stories do reveal her as a writer of great promise. "The Sister of the Baroness", for example, in which an impostor passes herself off as an aristocrat, is an ironic account of social snobbery (something as prevalent in Britain as in Germany during this era), and "The Child Who Was Tired" is a striking account of the miserable life of a young servant in a bourgeois family.

Mansfield is sometimes labelled a "modernist" writer, largely because her stories did not always follow the traditional formal structure of "a beginning, a middle and an end". Her stories generally deal with subtle moods rather than with violent emotions or with physical actions. One traditional feature present in many of her stories is the "twist at the end", often involving a change in a character's emotional state, or in the way in which that character is perceived by the reader.

A good example is "The Fly", one of her best-known stories. A wealthy businessman becomes very emotional while thinking about his son, who died in the Great War, but allows himself to be distracted by a fly, which has crawled into the inkpot on his desk. A few minutes later he has no recollection of what he was thinking about before the fly, revealing that his grief for his son was much more superficial than the reader had been led to believe. Strangely enough for a writer who did most her writing in the late 1910s and early 1920s, this is one of Mansfield's few explicit references to the War; it can be read as an indictment of how those who died in it quickly came to be forgotten by the elder generation.

Another example is "Mr and Mrs Dove", describing the efforts of a young man, Reggie, to persuade his a young woman named Anne to marry him before he leaves England to try his hand at farming in Rhodesia. (The title is taken from Anne's two pet doves, who remind her of a comical old married couple). Mansfield draws deft pen-picture of the two; Reggie is shy, awkward and slightly comical, Anne beautiful, and self-assured but rather cold and unconsciously cruel in her attitude towards him. It seems that the young man's suit seems doomed to failure, until a sudden shift in mood at the end of the story gives hope of a happier ending. This story is notably warmer in tone than many of the others; Mansfied could take a bleak view of human nature, and cynical endings like that of "The Fly" are commoner in her work.

A theme which frequently features in these stories is that of social class; in the early twentieth century it would appear that Mansfield's native New Zealand was just as class-conscious as the mother country. In "The Garden Party" there is a sharp contrast between the affluent, middle-class Sheridans, who are giving the party in question, and the working-class Scotts, who suffer a bereavement on the same day. The story deals with the rather patronising, if well-meaning, efforts of Laura, one of the Sheridan daughters, to comfort the bereaved family. Another story in the same vein is "The Dolls' House", dealing with the ostracism of two young working-class girls, Lil and Else Kelvey, by their more affluent classmates; the story ends with Lil and Else gaining some small consolation from the sight of a dolls' house belonging to one of those classmates. (It is notable that the middle-class children are actively encouraged in their snobbish behaviour by their parents).

Overall, I would agree with the previous reviewer in his assessment of Mansfield's work (which is why my rating for this collection is not higher). She is capable of flashes of genius, but only occasional ones. Too many of her stories seem long and drawn-out, with no perceptible point, an example being "Prelude", the longest story in this book, which reads less like a short story than a chapter taken at random from a much longer novel. I am not sure why it was necessary to publish her unfinished fragments, which add little to her reputation and may have been left unfinished because she was dissatisfied with them, not because she died before she could complete them. In my review, however, I have concentrated on those stories I liked rather than those I found disappointing. (Other excellent stories include "Pictures", "Mr Reginald Peacock's Day", "The Little Governess", "Life of Ma Parker" and "The Singing Lesson"). The tragedy of Mansfield's early death deprived the world of literature of a considerable talent, who might well have gone on to greater things had she lived longer.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ignored Brilliance, 27 May 2001
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This review is from: The Collected Stories (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Virginia Woolf apparently was intimidated by the work of Katherine Mansfield and reading the collected short stories certainly gave me an idea of why contemporary Woolf was awed by the talent of Mansfield. There are brilliant glimpses into the human character evident in this work. Though it may seem more tempting to buy a smaller selection, for example "The Garden Party and other short stories" it is through a more comprehensive collection such as this one that you get a sense of the author and her progression. She died young, never completing a full length novel yet the medium of the short story - I think - makes her accessible to a wider audience, even if up till now she has not been considered as a "mainstream" modernist writer. Short stories are perfect for just dipping into the book, seeing how the style and theme changes. The stories can be read as superficial glances into the upper class society of that era, yet I think a darker edge pervades the text. The symbolism of stories such as "Bliss" or "Prelude" reveals Mansfield's ingenuity in creating an underlying sense of unease. She accomplishes so much in so few pages, and this is why she threatened experimental novelist Woolf, and is so worthy of reading.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From writer of "twaddle" to aspirational model, 9 Dec 2007
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Four Violets (Hertford UK) - See all my reviews
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Katherine Mansfield, born in Wellington, NZ in 1888, was strangely unfitted for her time, with an independent spirit that led her to deny many accepted conventions. Writing was her whole life's focus.
Published from the age of nine, she commented:
"I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was, too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all."
Her short stories, collected here, reflect wonderfully her keen eye for the pretension and absurdity in much of human behaviour - and the strict limitations set on a woman of her class and era. Men departed every morning to carry out mysterious functions at the office while women stayed at home, organising the servants and being decorative.
She dissects family life, marriage and loneliness - both inside and outside relationships. What strikes me most is her piercing humour; but also her equally piercing, sometimes almost unbearable insight into women's exasperating, inescapable compulsion towards a man rather than to independence. Katherine Mansfield strove to free herself from human entanglements and betrayals which were a distraction from her writing; and as her biographer Claire Tomalin shows, caused her life-long health as well as emotional problems.
Her stories often catch the reader between helpless laughter and a sinister lurking horror in the background:

"When I was with Lady Tukes," said Nurse Andrews, "she had such a dainty little contrayvance for the buttah. It was a silvah Cupid balanced on the - on the bordah of a glass dish, holding a tayny fork".

"she wore a black velvet toque, with an incredibly surprised looking seagull camped on the very top of it".

"They like me at first; they think me uncommon, or original; but then immediately I want to show them - even give them a hint - that I like them, they seem to get frightened and begin to disappear".

"If I had seen him in the street I would have said I could not possibly love a man who wore a cap like that....the way it makes his ears stick out, and way it makes him have no back to his head at all".
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If You Can Read..., 5 Sep 2008
If you can read, or can be read to, buy this book. A collection of brilliant stories for under £2.00? Good grief, if you're umming and ahhing about it, it's most peculiar. It's worth it for "At The Bay" - Mansfield captures children's dialogue so poignantly and humorously. Unusually for a Modernist writer, she has a coherence and contemporaneity that means the reader can access the worlds she creates. From the seediness of "The Little Governess", where a naive young traveller is molested by an ancient man, to "The Daughters of the Late Colonel", a bleakly comic tale of two spinsters both afraid and excited by the death of their domineering father, this collection is a treat. You don't need to be a fan of Virginia Woolf or James Joyce or 'literary fiction'. These are stories of humans, outsiders who are trying to connect with one another and questioning their place in the world.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Katherine Mansfield's Private Lives, 1 Sep 2008
By 
J. S. Lewison (Bolton, Lancs United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
'I haven't written a word since October and I don't mean to until the spring. I want much more material: I am tired of my little stories like birds bred in cages.
Goodbye, my dearest cousin. I shall never know anyone like you; I shall remember every little thing about you for ever.'

Mansfield's poignant dismissal of her stories sits awkwardly with her promise of a spring renewal of her writing. The irony of time when anyone is terminally ill needs no elaboration and reading this passage once more I am impressed by the dignity of her underlying acceptance of her impending death. Mansfield's doubt in the artistic merit of her tales is inescapably mixed up with her detachment as a 'dying body.' She is already moving elsewhere watching all that she cared for and valued, diminish away.

And of course, if Mansfield had a recurring subject in her 'little stories' then that subject would have to be death, and death in all its many forms: physical, geographical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, linguistic.

One of the most resonant moments in her journal for me occurs in May 1922:

'A queer bit of psychology: I had to disappear behind the bushes today in a hollow. That act made me feel nearer to normal health than I have for years. Nobody there; nobody wondered if I was alright, i.e. there was nothing to distinguish me, at that moment, from an ordinary human being.'

Mansfield's honest pleasure at being 'normal' reveals the intense loneliness of illness. An adult life spent travelling in search of health from one rented room to another, accentuated her feelings of exile and isolation from her own kind. She talks to her journal, she writes letters, she creates fictions about people on the outside; visitors to happiness and love. So that the repetition of 'nobody' in this passage actually has a fragile power of its own. Mansfield rarely had 'anybody' there, and her elation at her temporary normality seems both humbling and practical.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect, a literary treat., 13 Aug 2010
By 
H. Carlton "autobiogfreak" (London, Eng.) - See all my reviews
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Why has it taken me decades to find Katherine Mansfield? I am over 40. All right, I am over 50. I love great writing. I should have found Ms. Mansfield a long time ago. She is one of the best.... and my best include Stefan Zweig, Iris Murdoch, I.B.Singer and Graham Greene. Katherine Mansfield easily shares their company.
If you try one story (my recommendation is 'A Cup of Tea')and you're not hooked, then she is not for you.
But I cannot imagine anyone not falling in love with her on the basis of that one very short story.
To those who are new to her....welcome, you are in for the treat of your reading life.
Her compassion, her humour, her insight, her modernity and freshness....her ability to encompass all of life in a few pages.....she is staggering.....I am in awe. I love her. You will not regret getting this book. These stories are as appropriate to our lives today as when they were written.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What's not to like?, 23 Jan 2014
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Mansfield never fails to please. This Anthology contained some work I hadn't previously read. Brilliant stuff, can readily recommend, worth every penny.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant to analyse!, 26 Oct 2013
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I am currently an A level English Literature student, and we are studying the works of Katherine Mansfield- I have to say, I am thoroughly enjoying her short stories! Mansfield's literary techniques shine throughout her collective shor stories, so happy reading!
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4.0 out of 5 stars great value, 28 May 2013
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We can recommend this book as it has about 30 short stories ... if you don't like one, just skip it and read the next. great value
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mansfield the Marvellous Story Teller, 27 Aug 2009
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This superb collection of Katherine Mansfield's work is such a bargain.

She is up there with the real greats of short story writing. I adore her work.

One particular story first attracted me to KM : "A Dill Pickle". It may not be her most well known story but it remains my firm favourite.

Why? Because I think there is something of Katherine herself in this short tale. She is so precise and succinct in the telling of two people meeting again, by accident, after six years. It is a story of love and bitterness; well that's how I'd describe it.

The book is a goldmine of great writing. Superb. Beg, borrow or buy (but don't steal) this bargain book.
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The Collected Stories (Penguin Modern Classics) by Katherine Mansfield (Paperback - 29 Mar 2001)
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