"Such a Sweet Old Lady" by Katherine Mansfield (1888 to 1923-New Zealand) is an unfinished story that Mansfield's husband John Middleton Murry included in a collection of her work that he published shortly after her death in 1923, The Dove's Nest and Other Stories. It is also the final story in phase one of The Reading Life Katherine Mansfield Project in which I read and posted on each of her short stories. So far I have posted on 85 of her stories. I think there are a few very early stories not included in the four collections on the New Zealand Electronic Text Center and I hope to locate those online and read them soon. It appears the stories were not considered by Mansfield as good enough for inclusion in a collection of her work. (Part of my project is to read all of her stories online so others can share in the experience.)
"Such a Sweet Old Lady" would stand out as an unfinished story in the hands of your "twist endings" short story writer but for Mansfield it feels finished with perhaps a bit of polishing to come. It is about an elderly woman, now a widow, who has moved in with her daughter. It seems she has come back to New Zealand after living in England for a long time. I think I have used the term "beautiful" in describing almost all her stories and it applies very well to "Such a Sweet Old Lady" which does a wonderful job in a very few pages of evoking the kind of feelings the woman in the story would have had after a life time of independence ends in a room in her daughter's house.
I plan to do a post kind of summing up my reasons for doing 65 posts on one author. I will also do a few suggestions as to what you should read if you only want a 1, 3, or 5 story sample of her work. In December I hope to post on a new biography of Mansfield by Kathleen Jones and a new novel based on her life by Joann Fitzpatrick. There will be give- a- ways on both of these books, sponsored by the authors, in December.
Katherine Mansfield will have an important place in my own reading life and on The Reading Life from now on.