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"Carnation" by Katherine Mansfield (1888 to 1923-New Zealand) was first published in 1917 and was included in the collection of her work published after her death by her husband John Middleton Murray, Something Childish and other Stories, in 1924.
"Carnation" is definitely a story drawn from the life experiences of Mansfield during her school years. One of the persons in the story is called "Katie" which was the name Mansfield was called by those close to her.
The plot action is simple. It takes place during a class in French at a private girls school. The teacher is Mr. Hugo. Mr Hugo is old and puffy. Of course as the students are all very young old might mean 30! It would be hard to deny that Mansfield can be a bit harsh in her treatment of continental Europeans.
The fun of the story is in the conversations of the girls while Mr. Hugo is teaching French in the front of the room. Mansfield does a great job with the conversations of the girls. Mansfield manages to turn a simple classroom encounter into something that seems almost like a scene from a very ancient ritual.
Only Eve and Katie sat upright and still. Katie did not know enough French to understand, but Eve sat listening, her eyebrows raised, her eyes half veiled, and a smile that was like the shadow of her cruel little laugh, like the wing shadows of that cruel little laugh fluttering over her lips. She made a warm, white cup of her fingers—the carnation inside. Oh, the scent! It floated across to Katie. It was too much. Katie turned away to the dazzling light outside the window.
I can almost smell the carnation! Lovely review!
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