“She pulled up her gloves, hummed to herself and said to the distant gum-tree, “Shan’t be long now.” But that was hardly company.” ― Katherine Mansfield, The Garden Party and Other Stories
The Garden Party and Other Stories – Katherine Mansfield
This was such a beautiful, thought-provoking read. The reader is invited to live in many different lives through the perceptions and thoughts of the many interesting characters that appeared in each short story. Katherine Mansfield was a writer from New Zealand who also lived in London and Paris and mixed with many of the famous writers of the time: T.S. Elliot, Virginia Woolf, to name a few. Her life is just as interesting and intriguing as her writing is. Her writing reflects her homeland of New Zealand, as well as the years she spent in Europe.
The Garden Party stood out for me, only because the title is on the cover, however, all the short stories are packed with beautiful prose, and demand that the reader thinks about what the message is and how the character feels on a deep level. It is all up to the reader to figure it all out, as the author never holds the reader’s hand for even a second.
The themes are universal but are not only relevant to a specific era or time. Even if the author shares her feelings about society and the world as she knew it at that particular time through the stories, they are all very applicable today. The themes vary. Some stories, such as The Garden Party, touch on the division of the classes. Here we see one of the characters feeling guilty for her wealth especially in a scene where she is walking through a street where the poorest live, wearing a beautiful dress and shoes of the highest quality. The image is so powerful. Other themes that stand out in the many stories are of women’s rights and the restrictions imposed on women. Loneliness and isolation are also highlighted. Existentialist thinking such as the meaning of life and why we are always held captive by a ticking clock, stood out for me. The fact that we can never just sit and enjoy nature and what is around us — to truly feel.
Overall, this collection of short stories was a delight to read. “Beautiful” and “Clever” were words that kept appearing in my mind as I read. Mansfield was considered to be one of the best short story writers of her time, and after reading this collection, I can see why. It was a wonderful experience to “sit in the lives” of these characters.