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The garden party Paperback – September 4, 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Virginia Woolf once described Katherine Mansfield as "of the cat kind, alien, composed, always solitary & observant." All of these qualities are on display in Mansfield's writing, as well; hers are lonely tales of missed connections, inchoate longings, and complicated emotions within the context of a rigidly defined social setting. Born in New Zealand, Mansfield set many of her stories there, even though she emigrated to England in 1908 at age 19, never to return. Her characters are almost invariably middle-class, the daughters, sweethearts, wives, and widows of office clerks, military men, businessmen. In "At the Bay," for example, Mansfield focuses on the Burnell family as they take their summer vacation at the beach. Not content to follow just one character through the story, she drifts in and out of the consciousness of half a dozen, from the family cat to Stanley and Linda Burnell, their children, Linda's sister, Beryl and their in-laws, the Trouts. Dipping into Linda's thoughts, for example, we learn that she loves her husband--"not the Stanley whom everyone saw, not the everyday one; but a timid, sensitive, innocent Stanley who knelt down every night to say his prayers and who longed to be good." Unfortunately for Linda, "she saw her Stanley so seldom." Mansfield then swoops into the mind of Stanley's brother-in-law, Jonathan Trout, who is discontented with his life but knows he hasn't the will to change it, and then on to Beryl, whose longing for "someone who will find the Beryl they none of them know" leads her into a rash action.

In the title story, Mansfield concentrates on young Laura Sheridan on the afternoon of her family's garden party. The story follows the family through the preparations--flags to identify the different sandwiches, the delivery of cream puffs, the setting up of a marquee on the lawn. This perfect idyll is broken, however, by news of a fatal accident down the lane. A young workman has been killed, leaving a wife and five children. Into Laura's perfect Eden, death comes whispering and her reaction to it is both subtle and surprising. In fact, many of Mansfield's stories feature young women on the brink of adulthood--facing, for the first time, the realities of their constricted lives. Love is a trap; childbearing is another; death can be "simply marvellous." Mansfield died in 1923 of tuberculosis, leaving behind a body of work that is as bold, unconventional, and modern as she was. The Garden Party and Other Stories is a fitting epitaph. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The Garden Party is the last volume of short stories published before this New Zealand author's untimely death from tuberculosis at age 35. These 15 stories are typical Mansfield slice-of-life glimpses into human relationships: parent-child, wife-husband, friend-friend, all recognizable, all vivid in their gentleness and sensitivity. Marguerite Gavin reads in a light, American-accented, rather uninspired way, but her voices are marvelous; presenting British accents of every description from cockney to Queen, with clear delineation between characters male and female, is a skill especially important in these character-driven tales. Her sound effects (birdcalls, running water, etc.) are perfect, and she sings in such a lovely clear soprano that the listener wishes there were more songs in the stories. The short story format is often a favorite with listeners who hesitate to commit to hours and hours of the same work. Mansfield belongs in all fiction collections; highly recommended.AHarriet Edwards, East Meadow P.L., NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Nabu Press (September 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1178372588
  • ISBN-13: 978-1178372588
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.6 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,961,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The Garden Party and Other Stories is a 1922 collection of short stories by respected author Katherine Mansfield.

The Table of Contents is poorly done here, and often only part of the TOC is readable. But don't let that stop you from enjoying these stories from an eminent writer.

Here are the stories, with the Kindle location, so you can jump right to any story in the book.

1. At the Bay (Location: 47)
2. The Garden Party (Location: 764)
3. The Daughters of the Late Colonel (Location: 1074)
4. Mr. and Mrs. Dove (Location: 1501)
5. The Young Girl (Location: 1657)
6. Life of Ma Parker (Location: 1789)
7. Marriage À La Mode (Location: 1921)
8. The Voyage (Location: 2137)
9. Miss Brill (Location: 2299)
10. Her First Ball (Location: 2385)
11. The Singing Lesson (Location: 2511)
12. The Stranger (Location: 2612)
13. Bank Holiday (Location: 2872)
14. An Ideal Family (Location: 2934)
15. The Lady's Maid (Location: 3063)
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Format: Paperback
If you've never read her short stories (she never wrote anything else), please do, and then read her journal. There is really something incredible that's underneath the surface of her short stories. If you just looked at the surface you might think they were cutesy or affected (little girls figure largely), but you would be completely missing the point. It's hard to explain what's so moving about them. When she describes some lazy afternoon, she just gets it so right that all the vast range of human experience seems to be contained in this afternoon (whereas in any Great American Novel-esque tomes you read only a fraction of that experience is ever expressed). But at the same time, it was just this cute little vignette that had very satisfying descriptions of flowers and little girls playing. The journal will help you understand her sadness as it's expressed in her work. You know when you are very, very upset, and you see something so beautiful or even funny, you're likely to become on the verge of tears? That's how Mansfield sounds in her stories - the stories are that beautiful thing that she sees.
She is most often compared to Chekhov, and it's not difficult to see why. I truly believe that Mansfield innovated and practically invented the English (language) short story.
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Format: Paperback
Mansfield was in competition with Virigina Wolf during her short life - the one female writer who could compete with the proverbial literary giantess of the pre-war era (as Wolf herself admitted - she respected the former's talent). I think Mansfield ranks as true literary bloom of the first quarter of the 20th century as a generality, hobnobbing with Irish talent like Joyce and fitting into that stage that also held T. E. Lawrence and John Buchan - the male writers always dominating. Mansfield represents the rank outsider, not male, not "English" but breaking through into recognition while she lived.

Her writing is distinctly impressionist in flavour. Sentences broken and stories only half complete. But she writes beautifully, often echoing her impending death from TB. An outsider with her sexuality in how she experimented including a brief pretence of motherhood and her spirituality. She attended Gurdjieff's centre and was obviously fond of the pragmatism of certain Eastern traditions compared to the prevailing cult.

But she only reveals so much in her writing. So much remaining unsaid. Happy stories like "Bliss" and funny stories like "The school mistress". So many details from life at the time like ships, parties, schools, courtship, and the lives of ordinary people from the well bred elites to the downtrodden poor. Mansfield frequently displays a sympathy for the underdog and cries out about the transience of things and the lack of stability in pleasure - vaguely Buddhist even ... But her stories are yet so English with glimpses of her native New Zealand from which she was divorced. She write well about the dazzle of things like summer or flowers, children, sounds and people - everything highlighted.
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I admit when I started this book, I did not expect much. The first story, "At the Bay," was told through the point of view of so many characters, and in such a stream of conscious style, that I had no idea what the plot was (I am unconvinced that there was one) or how all the characters were related to each other. I think there were perhaps twice as many characters as there were pages in the story, and I didn't much care for the style. But I got over that when I read the second story, and the one for which the collection is named, "The Garden Party." It was so sweetly told, and captured such a perfect moment in time through the eyes of a young girl. The story touched on such themes as the end of childhood, death, innocence, the class system and family relationships. It was beautiful, and I relaxed, knowing that I was in the hands of a skilled storyteller.

I didn't love all the stories in this collection, but so many of them touched me very deeply. For me, short stories are so, so dependent on the characters and the author's language. There aren't enough pages for a strong plot to develop, and so the most capable storytellers (in my opinion) focus on providing us a vivid portrait of their characters. I soon came to realize that this is a very melancholy set of stories. Many of the characters are older women. Several have lived their lives in the service of others and now realize that they are alone and terribly lonely. Others center on a couple, and the terrible moment that can arrive, unexpectedly, that makes you realize how little you know the other person. Some are about young girls, on the cusp of adulthood, and realizing that it is very bittersweet. Only a few are told from a man's point of view, but they are devastating in their emotional impact.
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