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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Katherine Mansfield The Early Years by Gerri Kimber (2016, Edinburgh University Press

The Katherine Mansfield Society - Your First Resource

Edinburgh University Press

Website of Linda Lappin- author of Katherine's Wish, a wonderful historical novel based on last years of Mansfield

Homepage of Kathleen Jones - author of The Story Teller A Biography of Katherine Mansfield- highly recommended

The Reading Life Guide to Getting Started in Katherine Mansfield

Born - Wellington, New Zealand, October 14, 1888

Died -  Fontainebleau, France January 9, 1923 (of Tuberculosis)

1903 - sent by wealthy parents to attend school in London1903 to 1906 -  travels Europe, especially Germany

1906 - returns to New Zealand

1908 - returns to London, never to go back to New Zealand, begins trying to live as a professional writer, partially supported by her father, chairman of the Bank of New Zealand who disapproved of her profession and life style

1911 -  first collection of short stories published, In a German Pension

1911 - meets John Middleton Murry whom she will marry in 1918

1915 - her beloved brother is killed in a training accident in France while serving in the  New Zealand Army.  Mansfield begins  to write of her childhood in New Zealand

I was deeply moved when I learned that Katherine Mansfield's Note book was the last work Irene Nemirovsky read before she was transported to Auschwitz

When I first began The Reading Life almost eight years ago, I had never heard of
Katherine Mansfield.  I had the common place prejudice against short stories, thinking I needed something I could "sink my teeth into".  Over a long year period of continuous reading, I might have read ten short stories.   In a short story of the day webpage I followed, "Miss Brill" was recommended.  I ended up reading all of the short stories in her four collections, two books about her and even ended up doing an article for The Journal of the Katherine Mansfield Society.  Every day people from all over the world log onto my blog to read my posts.

Some readers say they are not interested in learning about the lives of authors, only about their stories.  To me this is deeply misguided, why read a writer with any real effort unless you think they can add to your understanding of life? .

Why would you not want to know the well springs of  their creativity?  This is not an endorsement of biographical interpretation, nor do I reject it, as perhaps long ago I did.  Literature belongs to each reader.

Katherine Mansfield The Early Years covers her life from her birth in 1888, detailing her family history in New Zealand, up to 1908, when she left New Zealand for the second time, never to return.  Kimber lets us see how the early life experiences of Mansfield shaped her fiction.  We learn a lot about life in Wellington during the last years of the 19th century up to 1908.  The poor and the rich lived in close proximity.  There were not enough people affluent enough to send their children to private school so Katherine and her siblings mingled with children from all classes. We see a treatment of the poor kids in what many consider her best story, "The Doll House".  Kimber lets us see New Zealand was very much a country of emigrants, even the
Richest residents grandparents left England seeking better circumstances.  Kimber lets us see his this produced a more open society than England.

 Kimber goes into detail about Mansfield's early romantic and sexual involvements, with men and women.  It was fascinating to learn of her affair with a rich beautiful Maori princess.  One of her uncles was married to a Maori woman.  Learning of the relative comfortable intimacy with the Maori helped me understand the story, "The Kidnapping of Pearl Button".

Mansfield was a lonely child, not really fitting the pattern her parents wanted, graduate from school and marry a nice young man from upper crust Wellington society, have kids and run a house.  Part of Mansfield's problem was that she was simply too smart, too curious, overly rebellious to settle into such a role.

In 1903 her father sent her to live in London while going to Queen's college.  London was at first a great cultural shock.  She met lots of literary and artistic people, had some more romances.  She tried her hand at writing stories and became enamored with becoming a professional writer.

After three years in 1906 she returns to Wellington.  She realized right away she did not want to spend the rest of her life there, bohemian London called out.  Her parents tried to fix her up with nice young men but this never worked out.  Kimber ends her wonderful narrative in 1908 when Mansfield returns to London.  The rest is the stuff of legends.

Kimber has studied the work of Mansfield for many years.  I greatly enjoyed her tying in of various stories to events in Mansfield's life.  We see her early closeness with her brother Harold.

There are many images of the natural world in her stories.  In the backstreet rooming houses and hotels in which she lived in London and Europe these must have been very fond memories.  There is a great deal of spectatorship, train and ship trips.

Katherine Mansfield The Early Years is a marvelous example of a literary biography.  Kimber had access to conversations with survivors, previously unused in biographies correspondence as well as fragments of stories not included in her four official collections.  There are a good number of previously unpublished photos that alone will make this a must have for Mansfield lovers.

Mansfield was one of the founders of the modern short story, the story of her early years tells how she came to write her very influential stories.

I highly recommend this book to all interested not just in Mansfield, who really must read this book, but in the development of the modern short story.  To those who have an overview of Mansfield's remaining years, this book will help you understand her life path, her involvement with John Middleton Murry (I would love to read an account by Kimber of this relationship) and her strength to struggle with her health and financial difficulties.

The prose is elegant, the documentation impeccable without being overly academic

Gerri Kimber, Visiting Professor in the Department of English at the University of Northampton, is co-editor of the annual yearbook Katherine Mansfield Studies, and Chair of the Katherine Mansfield Society. She is the deviser and Series Editor of the four-volume Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield (2016) and the author of Katherine Mansfield: The View from France, and A Literary Modernist: Katherine Mansfield and the Art of the Short Story. - from Edinburgh University Press

Mel u



Suko said...

Excellent post, Mel! I find it very interesting that Katherine Mansfield is considered to be one of the founders of the modern short story. (I wonder if that was partially because women were not "allowed" to write more lengthy works;or perhaps they had to hide or at least minimize their calling--writing short fiction fit into their lives more easily. Women did not have the same luxury to follow their dreams and aspirations until fairly recently.) I still need to read Katherine's Wish.

Buried In Print said...

Well, then, I must read this, obviously! Funny, I used to think, when I saw this picture of her as a young woman, that she looked very peaceful. But, now, I think she looks a little sad, too. Mostly, even.