Paul Bryant's Reviews > The Garden Party and Other Stories

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield
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's review
Mar 26, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: short-stories
Read from August 10 to 23, 2013

I read that D H Lawrence once wrote to Katherine Mansfield

You are a loathsome reptile - I hope you will die.

(Thank you, Lynne). Ah, the people I have often wished to say the same thing to! (Not you, of course, never you!) But I am not made of such stern stuff as DH. Anyhow, I did not think Miss Mansfield was a loathsome reptile. Quite the reverse – she was a beautiful reptile. She had a cool gaze which swept insight and judgement over this human race of ours, the parts that she knew anyway, and she judged life to be sad. Not tragic, just very sad. Husbands desperate for their wives to love them when they know they never will, for instance. This turns up in a couple of stories – in one, “Marriage a la Mode”, the husband works in London all week earning a pile and comes home to his family at weekends. His wife gets herself a whole new crowd of friends – Bohemian artists, poets, you know – and he’s completely out of his depth. She’s drifting away. They’re always there. After one weekend like this, on the train back to London, he writes his wife a long letter. She reads it in amazement, and starts laughing her head off. Her friends want to know what’s so funny. So she reads it out.

When she reached the end they were hysterical : Bobby rolled on the turf and almost sobbed. … “Oh Isabel,” moaned Moira, “that wonderful bit about holding you in his arms!”

I wasn’t especially brimming over with Mansfield love when I was reading most of this stuff, in the back of my head I was thinking okay, another one to tick off from The List of Unread Literature (o the awful List! – keep it away from me!) – but I found that the stories have an afterglow, they’re like those lovely paintings by Corot, Pissarro and Sisley, just ordinary streets and fields, but so intensely understated, or understatedly intense.

One story, “Her First Ball” reminded me specifically of Renoir’s brilliant “Her First Evening Out”

So I give this a generous 4 stars, really I think it’s 3.5.

My favourite story was “The Daughters of the Late Colonel”. Oh fine women of Goodreads who are on the whole demographically between the ages of 25 and 40

(see for further interesting details)

please never turn into the daughters of the late colonel when you grow up! But I can’t imagine that you would for a moment. My God, I remember creatures like this from my tiny youth, ancient relatives like Aunt Alice who was not any kind of real aunt. Ah I recoiled, recoiled from the plunging dramatic unexpected powdery kisses, and oh how I had to sit there, not there, and eat this seed cake and say how lovely it was even though I was about puking, oh the unfathomable rules of social engagement, I practically had to tell them thank you for the air I gratefully breathed whilst in these old houses with their doyleys and antimacassars and rugs for the unwary (was I clumsy? I was). I was bound to knock over some knick knack, usually a glass pony or some animal rendered into a delicate shape designed to shatter if you looked at it wrong. No, old women aren’t like that any more, thank God. They’re so much better. They go shark wrangling and ski backwards up Mount Kilimanjaro these days. The plates of dainties have been abandoned along with the inch thick face powder. I know global warming’s a major downer, but some things are so much better than they used to be.

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Reading Progress

08/10/2013 marked as: currently-reading
08/16/2013 page 90
56.0% "yeah well, Virginia Woolf didn't have nothing to worry about"
08/23/2013 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by David (new)

David so wait, you have never ever called someone a loathsome reptile?

Paul Bryant not to their face.

message 3: by David (new)

David to be fair, DH sent it on a postcard, so maybe you're just as bold!

midnightfaerie Wonderful review!

Paul Bryant thanks!!

message 6: by Rakhi (new)

Rakhi Dalal Loved the review!

The plates of dainties have been abandoned along with the inch thick face powder. I know global warming’s a major downer, but some things are so much better than they used to be.......Cheers for this!!

Paul Bryant thanks Rakhi... 76 is the new 37.

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