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The Garden Party and Other Stories
by Katherine Mansfield
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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
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.
With the timing and phrasing of a musician, Marguerite Gavin narrates this last-published, collection of Katherine Mansfield's short stories. Gavin has a lovely singing voice that particuarly enhances one of the stories about a singing teacher. She generally reads with a great deal of enthusiasm and expression. Her characterization is adequate although the lower register voices are strained. Her accents also sound a bit affected, but that may also be a reflection, in part, of the manners of the time period represented. It would be helpful to the listener of this collection of 15 stories if the individual titles were listed on the package. In addition, the reader was misidentified on the review copy. J.E.M. (c) AudioFile, Portland, Maine
From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Kirsten Backstrom
In the title story of this collection, an extravagant garden party coincides with the accidental death of a local working-class man, and the daughter of the party's hostess is touched by a newborn social conscience: "Just for a moment she had another glimpse of that poor woman and those children, and the body being carried into the house. But it all seemed blurred, unreal, like a picture in the newspaper. I'll remember it again after the party's over, she decided." The irony is eloquent as she later intrudes upon the funeral with an afterthought gift, is shocked at the genuine grief and poverty of her neighbors, and leaves with her sense of romantic tragedy intact. Katherine Mansfield's stories tend to be laced with such irony. While at times she can be heavy-handed and marked by the prejudices of her time and class, at her best she is insightful and wry, conveying complicated relationships and difficult ideas through deceptively simple language. Her characters include couples who embark upon marriage compromises or endure marriage's charades; people disdaining, deceiving, envying one another; people desperately and persistently misunderstanding each other and themselves. Many of these characters have outlived their dreams and cling to illusions of their own usefulness and happiness. The stories in The Garden Party are morality plays which dramatize significant moments in shallow lives and show how tragedy can transcend the trivial. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14.
Introduction by Claire Tomalin
The classic stories of Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) continues to surprise and delight readers even today. In deceptively simple language, Mansfield illuminates complicated relationships and profound, often troubling ideas, capturing the telling moments of her characters' lives in precise, luminous detail. .
Card catalog description
Relates Katherine Mansfield's classic short story about a garden party which continues uninterrupted by a neighborhood death.
Inside Flap Copy
Introduction by Claire Tomalin
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