Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Katherine's Wish by Linda A. Lappin

Katherine's Wish by Linda A. Lappin (2008, 223 pages)

Before I give my thoughts on Katherine's Wish by Linda A. Lappin I want to invite everyone to enter the giveaway contest for this book.   The contest is open to all followers of this blog world wide.    All you have to do is leave a comment on the contest post.   If you do not have a Google Profile, leave your e mail address.   Winners will be notified by E-Mail and announced on  the blog on September 18, 2010.

I read my first Katherine Mansfield short story, "Miss Brill",  May 19 of this year.    I was so taken with the story that I did a bit of research which lead me to read a few of her more famous stories.  From there I have decided to read and post on all her stories.   All together it is only about 600 pages as her body of work.   At the same time I also read Hermione Lee's great biography Virginia Woolf which contains a very insightful chapter on Mansfield and her relationship to Woolf.    Mansfield was said by Woolf to be the only writer of whose talent she was jealous.   I also read Claire Tomalin's biography of Mansfield, Katherine Mansfield-A Secret Life.   I also studied the wonderful web page maintained by the Katherine Mansfield Society.  The society's web page features an excellent chronology of the life and times of Mansfield done by Linda Lappin.    From there I was directed to the web page of Ms Lappin and was delighted to see that Lappin had written a novel about the last five years of the life of Mansfield.    Katherine's Wish has won the IPPY Gold Prize for historical fiction for 2009, among other awards.    Ms Lappin's web page gives a lot of background information on her own life and work.  

I at once ordered the book from Amazon and was happy when it got to me here in the Philippines in less than a month.   Ms Lappin has been a reader of Mansfield for twenty years and a student of her life, era, and work for fifteen years.    Lappin is the author of two prize winning historical  novels, The Etruscan and Prisoner of Palmary prior to Katherine's Wish.

Katherine's Wish does a wonderful job of bringing Katherine Mansfield to life. The period covered is from 1918 to October of 1922.     We see the contradictions in her character.    We also are treated to visits by Virginia Woolf and D H Lawrence, both very close to Mansfield.    As  the novel begins I came to feel I was on a train with Mansfield (or Katie as she is sometimes called) riding through France.    I got more of an understanding of the passionate physical side of Mansfield's nature.    I saw how alone she was.   I got to know a bit her husband, John Middleton Murray.    Most lovers of the work of Mansfield (and her own father) end up seeing Murray as an exploiter and not the husband that Mansfield needed.    As I read Katherine's Wish I could not help but wish she could have had a husband like Leonard Woolf.    Mansfield was not an ethereal elf  spending all her time in cafes talking about art.   She had her own faults and was in fact quite an exploiter of Ida Baker, a childhood friend in love with Mansfield who was used by her as a servant and comforter when it was useful to Mansfield and pushed aside when it was not.    To me if there is a villain in this story it is the father of Mansfield, Harold Beauchamp.    Beauchamp, one of the richest if not the richest man in New Zealand (at one time chairman of the Bank of New Zealand) gave his daughter a very small allowance.   He could have increased it ten fold and not even known it.   I found the story "The Little Girl"   a chilling look into the emotional background of Mansfield's childhood.    It may be that Katherine Mansfield needed to suffer a bit to produce her art (she never really had a room of her own as her friend Virginia Woolf said a woman writer needed) and she did.

There is a lot to like and enjoy about Katherine's Wish.   It is the best novel I am aware of centering on literary characters.  

We meet along the way a number of interesting people.    I am still a bit confused at what went on at the German Spa where Mansfield's mother sent her (the mother is also an interesting figure) to be cured by cold water therapy of her sexual interest in women.     There is a brief mention of Alastair Crowley also which I found intriguing.    Many of those close to Mansfield's associates (Mansfield was not a member of the Bloomsbury group even though she knew many of them-I think somehow she was a bit to "rough" or scary for them!) were interested in occult orders like The Golden Dawn, whose doctrines I studied many years ago.

Katherine Wish is beautifully written and shows a deep understanding of the creative process.     I recommend it without reservation.   It is also physically a beautifully produced book.

Again, if you are interested in learning more about Katherine Mansfield while reading a wonderful historical novel  set in France and England from 1918 to 1922,  please feel free to enter the giveaway for this book

Mel u

1 comment:

Suko said...

Mel, this sounds like a fascinating book and I'd love to read it. I have entered your great giveaway!