Katherine Mansfield (1888 to 1923) is a very important figure in my reading over the last six years and in the development of my blog. Before I began read her stories I never really appreciated or had much interest in short stories. Like many, I thought they did not provide the substantially I sought in serious literary fiction. I first read her famous story "Miss Brill" because a short story web page I had begun to follow endorsed the work. I was so taken by it I decided to read and post on all,of her short stories. From this I met others into her work, was asked to write an article for The Katherine Mansfield Society, and to this day even though it has been years since I posted on her, people come to read my posts upon her everyday, most I speculate are college students.
Last week my Brother-in-Law Bonny Norte passed away and my family returned to our ancestral home in northern Zambales. We are situated on a very peaceful tract of land with giant mango trees, a beautiful lake in the rear where the air is so clean it is a pleasure just to breath. While there I began reading, among other works, the 13 interconnected stories in Mansfield's first collection of stories, In a German Pension. Mansfield was sent by her mother to a pension (boarding house) in Bavaria to have her treated at a nearby spa for various issues and Mansfield is thought to have used these experiences in her stories.
I think on second my reading of In a German Pension that you will get most out of the collection if you read it over just a few days, if not straight through. With this I was able to appreciate more how the stories tie in with each other. Most of the other pension guests are affluent Germans, including a Baron. The other guests assume, in a very quick aside you will miss if not alert, that the female narrator is English but she is not. Germans come of the worst here, especially German men, but thevGermans get in some good jabs also. The semi friendly jostling can't help but now be read in the light of the forth coming World War. There are a lot of class and social status markers in the small world of the pension. There much humor in the stories but also terrible pain as in "The Child Who Was Tired" focusing on a young helper girl at the pension. Married women look down on unmarried females, in one funny conversation a German woman tells the narrator that she does not see why any man would marry a typically cold English woman. There are romances, intrigues and even a murder to keep you very interested. We get a real feel for the day to day life of the pension.
I greatly enjoined my reread of In a German Pension. I suspect I will reread all her stories. Mansfield is a true master of the short story.