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The Garden Party

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'They could not have had a more perfect day for a garden-party if they had ordered it.'

A windless, warm day greets the Sheridan family on the day of their garden party. As daughter Laura takes the reins on party preparations the news of a neighbour's demise casts a cloud over the host and threatens the entire celebration.

The Penguin English Library - collectable general readers' editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century to the end of the Second World War.

181 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1922

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About the author

Katherine Mansfield

700 books990 followers
Kathleen Mansfield Murry (née Beauchamp) was a prominent New Zealand modernist writer of short fiction who wrote under the pen name of Katherine Mansfield.

Katherine Mansfield is widely considered one of the best short story writers of her period. A number of her works, including "Miss Brill", "Prelude", "The Garden Party", "The Doll's House", and later works such as "The Fly", are frequently collected in short story anthologies. Mansfield also proved ahead of her time in her adoration of Russian playwright and short story writer Anton Chekhov, and incorporated some of his themes and techniques into her writing.

Katherine Mansfield was part of a "new dawn" in English literature with T. S. Eliot, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. She was associated with the brilliant group of writers who made the London of the period the centre of the literary world.

Nevertheless, Mansfield was a New Zealand writer - she could not have written as she did had she not gone to live in England and France, but she could not have done her best work if she had not had firm roots in her native land. She used her memories in her writing from the beginning, people, the places, even the colloquial speech of the country form the fabric of much of her best work.

Mansfield's stories were the first of significance in English to be written without a conventional plot. Supplanting the strictly structured plots of her predecessors in the genre (Edgar Allan Poe, Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells), Mansfield concentrated on one moment, a crisis or a turning point, rather than on a sequence of events. The plot is secondary to mood and characters. The stories are innovative in many other ways. They feature simple things - a doll's house or a charwoman. Her imagery, frequently from nature, flowers, wind and colours, set the scene with which readers can identify easily.

Themes too are universal: human isolation, the questioning of traditional roles of men and women in society, the conflict between love and disillusionment, idealism and reality, beauty and ugliness, joy and suffering, and the inevitability of these paradoxes. Oblique narration (influenced by Chekhov but certainly developed by Mansfield) includes the use of symbolism - the doll's house lamp, the fly, the pear tree - hinting at the hidden layers of meaning. Suggestion and implication replace direct detail.

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Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews3,057 followers
October 8, 2016
Piazza del Duomo is my least favourite place in Florence. I always hurry through it. Probably San Marco (except at four in the morning) and St Peters are my least favourite places in, respectively, Venice and Rome so I guess I just don’t respond very well to the grandiose. I prefer what’s smaller, more secret, more ostensibly self-effacing. A criticism often levelled at Katherine Mansfield’s stories are that they are small things, limited in scope. Lawrence in Women in Love famously depicted her as Gudren, a brilliant but limited miniaturist. She herself, close to death, remarked that she’d only produced “little stories like birds bred in cages”.

She’s often compared (unfavourably) with Virginia Woolf. But it’s worth remembering that had Woolf died the same year as Mansfield she would only have written her first three books (The Voyage Out, Night and Day and Jacob’s Room) and consequently almost certainly would not now be known to us as one of the great moderns. In all probability her reputation would be on a par with many of the more obscure women writers of that time now published by Virago. Had she died at the same age as Mansfield she would only have written The Voyage Out. Herein lies the tragedy of KM’s early death. Had she lived even another ten years it’s not unlikely she would have gone on to equal Woolf’s achievement. The best stories in this collection are more innovative and fresh and lively than anything Woolf had written at this time. In fact she makes Woolf appear at this point in her writing career a bit of a stiff frumpy Victorian in comparison.

She knew she was going to die while writing many of these stories and this is evident in the wonder the natural world has for her ( easy to see why her and Lawrence got on so well – both take the same kind of delight in the natural world. Woolf’s nature descriptions, on the other hand, are always more aridly intellectualised.) It’s also evident in the depths of loneliness and longing in virtually all the characters, the alienation they feel from the warm vibrant central thrust of life. But never does she strike a morbid or self-pitying note. Mostly she writes with great wit and vitality and a keen eye for the telling detail of any given moment. She’s also brilliant at extracting nuggets of gold from the mundane. In one story, Ma Parker is a housekeeper whose beloved grandson has just died. She cleans for a literary gentleman every Tuesday. The literary gentleman offers his condolences but his real concern is to reproach her for mislaying a spoon of cocoa. People wonder how Nazism happened or Aleppo goes on happening. Here’s how – at bottom the absence of cocoa in the house is more likely to rouse us to protest than the suffering of a fellow human being we don’t know.

The first three stories – At the Bay, The Garden Party and The daughters of the Late Colonel are absolute gems. The other stories are mostly tremendously readable without quite hitting the heights of the first three and there’s a couple of duds towards the end.
My favourite photo of her -

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.7k followers
April 23, 2022
(Book 714 from 1001 books) - The Garden Party, Katherine Mansfield

The Garden Party, is a 1922 short story by Katherine Mansfield. The wealthy Sheridan family prepares to host a garden party. Laura is charged with instructing the workers on the placement of the marquee. Her haughty air quickly disintegrates into an intimidated admiration for the workingmen, with whom she feels a personal connection. Laura's mother, Mrs. Sheridan, has ordered masses of lilies, to both their delight. Laura's sister Jose tests the piano, and then sings a song in case she is asked to do so again later. After the furniture is rearranged, the Sheridans learn that their working-class neighbor Mr. Scott has died. While Laura believes the party should be called off, neither Jose nor their mother agrees.

Laura eases her conscience by deciding to forget the matter until the party is over. When the evening comes, Mrs. Sheridan tells Laura to bring a basket full of leftovers to the Scotts' house to expose her to the world beyond their estate. Laura is led into the poor neighbors' house by Mrs. Scott's sister, sees the pitiable figure of the widow, and is led to the late husband's corpse. Here, Laura is intrigued by the sublimity of the corpse's face, and she finds death just beautiful as life. Having left the house, Laura meets her brother Laurie in an alleyway. She finds herself unable to explain life and death concisely, and Laurie understands that his sister has come to realize her own mortality.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز چهاردهم ماه می سال1994میلادی

داستان کوتاه «گاردن پارتی»، اثر: کاترین منسفیلد، ترجمه: شیرین خالقی، ناشر: خانه آفتاب، آذر ماه سال1371، موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان زلاندنو - سده20م

ماجرای «گاردن‌ پارتی» در یک صبح تا شب، در منزل مجلل و بزرگ «شریدن»ها رخ می‌دهد؛ سپیده‌ دمانِ روزی‌ ست که قرار است در عصرگاه همانروز گاردن‌ پارتی در خانه برگزار شود؛ همه در تب و تاب و جنب و جوش‌ هستند؛ کارگرها و آشپزها، به آماده‌ سازی مقدمات کار مشغولند، و خانم «شریدن»، و سه دختر نوجوان‌ او: «مگ»، «جوزی»، و «لورا»، بر تلاش آن‌ها نظارت دارند؛ در نزدیکی محل سکونت شرایدن‌ها، فاجعه‌ ای رخ داده است، که آن‌ها از آن رخداد بی‌خبر هستند؛ «اسکات» گاری‌چی، ساکن آلونک‌های پایین تپه ـ تپه‌ ا‌ی که خانه‌ ی شرایدن‌ها بر فراز آن قرار دارد - مرده است؛ اسب او «از یک واگن باری رم کرده، و او را با مغز زمین زده، و کشته است.»؛ خبر را کارگر شیرینی‌ فروشی، آورده، «لورا» بسیار غمگین است؛ «اسکات» همسایه‌ ی آن‌هاست، و اگر گاردن‌ پارتی برگزار شود، صدای ارکستر و همهمه‌ های شادی، و خنده، تا منزل او خواهد رسید، و زن و پنج بچه‌ ی قد و نیم قد او را غم‌گین‌تر خواهد کرد؛ برای همین معتقد است مهمانی برگزار نشود، اما مادر و خواهرانش، عقیده‌ ی او را ندارند؛ «لورا» پرسوناژ اصلی داستان است؛ او با کارگرها و فقرا هم‌دل است، اما هم‌نشین اغنیاست؛ هیچکاری از دست او برنمی‌آید، جز این‌که گریه کند، و در انتهای داستان، جمله‌ ی پرمعنی‌ خویش را خطاب به برادرش بگوید: «زندگی جداً ��یلی... جدآً خیلی...» جمله‌ ای که ناقص می‌ماند، و او صفت مناسبی برایش نمی‌یابد، «گاردن‌ پارتی» آیینه‌ ای تمام‌عیار از نابرابری طبقاتی، و مرثیه‌ ای بر بی‌عدالتیهای آشکار در همین جهان است

تاریخ نخستین خوانش 18/03/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 02/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
June 1, 2020
And as I got this collection from my son for Christmas, I had to let it jump the queue.

As it rushed past the pile of waiting, bitterly frustrated heavy and important novels, it winked cheerfully. What is it to a Katherine Mansfield short story that other books, in my possession for decades, have an important message to deliver? After all, she delights by pointing at the small, private gestures and parallel existences without judging either more than necessary.

A successful garden party coincides with a fatal accident, leaving a young woman a widow with many small children in a poverty-stricken street. A first ball offers a moment of insight into future boredom, only to wipe out the deeper understanding immediately again, not to spoil the moment. A work life spent creating an ideal family nears its exhaustion, a woman faces rejection and rehabilitation within an hour of perfect terror, another thinks about choices made in life, for service, against marriage. Would the opposite have made her happier, unhappier, different, the same? Who knows.

Katherine Mansfield, the only author of whose writing Virginia Woolf claimed to have been jealous, moves between social classes, age groups, and gender with the ease of a truly great and careful observer. She moves from grief to happiness and worry, and back again, creating a microcosm of perfect accuracy wherever she lets her mind stop to describe in a few words a world complete in its complex relationships.

What a delightful way to close my reading year - by finally getting to read an author long postponed, and then be blown away by her lighthearted depth.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,119 reviews3,982 followers
November 25, 2022
The title story

The opening is idyllic, verging on the twee: the weather is perfect, the grass shines, and the rose bushes “bowed down as though they had been visited by archangels” - not just regular angels, but archangels!

As the lavish preparations unfold (a marquee, a band, an abundance of lilies, and fifteen sandwich fillings, including egg with olive, and cream-cheese with lemon-curd), it’s quickly clear that it’s going to be about class distinctions, and a young woman of the house wanting to assert her independence from the strictures of convention - including lusting after the hired hands.

Image: “Pots of pink lilies. No other kind. Nothing but lilies—canna lilies, big pink flowers, wide open, radiant, almost frighteningly alive on bright crimson stems.” (Source)

The saccharine of the opening becomes more astringent as minor glitches accumulate and the party is potentially overshadowed by external events:
People like that don’t expect sacrifices from us.
But the transformative power of a good hat is not to be underestimated and everything is, of course, divine.
And the perfect afternoon slowly ripened, slowly faded, slowly its petals closed.

However, rather than being the end, this is when the story takes flight into unexpectedly profound realms, with echoes of a particular parable. That elevates this from a routine 3* to and easy 4*.

The little cottages were in a lane to themselves… They were the greatest possible eyesore, and they had no right to be in that neighbourhood at all. They were little mean dwellings painted a chocolate brown. In the garden patches there was nothing but cabbage stalks, sick hens and tomato cans. The very smoke coming out of their chimneys was poverty-stricken. Little rags and shreds of smoke, so unlike the great silvery plumes that uncurled from the Sheridans’ chimneys.

Watch out, grammar mavens

Mansfield doesn’t just start sentences with conjunctions, she opens this story with one:
And after all the weather was ideal. They could not have had a more perfect day for a garden-party if they had ordered it.

And she ends it with an incomplete thought, “Isn’t life—”, which fortunately, Laurie understands.

Image: “Garden in June”, Frederick Carl Frieseke (Source)


Mansfield wrote this fifteen years after she left New Zealand and settled in England. It feels very English, although the house is based on her childhood home in NZ. It was published in 1922, only a year before she died of consumption (TB), aged 34.

I’ve reviewed The Daughters of the Late Colonel, from this collection, HERE. It also explores manners, class, and expectations, singed by death.

I’ve reviewed Miss Brill, from this collection, HERE. It’s a very short vignette of loneliness.

I’ve reviewed Bliss, from a different collection, HERE. Another case where the initial mood is very different from most of what follows.

Mansfield was a friend of DH Lawrence. Gudrun, in Women in Love (see my review, HERE), was partially based on her.

Short story club

I read this as one of the stories in The Art of the Short Story, by Dana Gioia, from which I'm aiming to read one story a week with The Short Story Club, starting 2 May 2022.

You can read this story here.

You can join the group here.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,385 reviews2,258 followers
June 19, 2018
Considering Katherine Mansfield was stricken with tuberculosis at the time of writing this collection, you simply wouldn't believe that to be the case whilst indulging in her gorgeous prose. I imagine her, pen in hand, under clear blues skies, relaxed in a tranquil garden, with various birds singing a joyful tune, whilst the distant sound of the sea caressing the shore, cool and calmly creating a scene of such bliss. When in all likelihood she was cooped up in bed feeling terrible. Most writers nowadays can't write this good, even with the added benefit of not being seriously ill.

Widely regarded as a pioneer of the form, Mansfield focused on capturing the psychology and inner lives of characters through free indirect discourse and epiphanies, with sudden moments of realisation and insight playing a big part in the stories. Unlike traditional narratives, the stories typically begin in the heart of a moment and end abruptly. The writing is so convincing, it's almost like an invasion of privacy, you feel so close to the heart of the characters actions and words, that they could suddenly turn to the reader at any given moment and whisper "please, give me some space".

Some of the later stories barely last fifteen pages, but even then, just within this short period of time, she manages to connect easily with her audience, as Mansfield strove for absolute precision and distillation, writing in a letter that, ideally, ‘there mustn’t be one single word out of place, or one word that can be taken out’. That's precisely the feeling you get. It's little wonder Virginia Woolf was jealous of Mansfield's work. This coming from one of the great writers of the 20th century. Mansfield’s influence and contribution to literary modernism has even played a big part in shaping writers to this day.

After reading only the first few pages of the opening story 'At the Bay' it was easy to discover that she had a great talent. After getting through all of them, I am in little doubt, she is one of the finest short-story writers I have come across. The stories here work not in plots, but in moods and emotions built on a fascination with people, the substance and different shades of life. There are passing joys, and the lingering of sadness, the particular feeling of a time of day, the brief state of minds that chase each other across human souls like small shadows across the water. A collector of small emotions was she, caught on the wing, never pinned down or bottled in her pages, but kept alive there in all their fragile iridescent colours.

Mansfield was a connoisseur of the gentle ripples that carried much more significance than the thrashing waves. She had a prodigious ability to give you in a story a total effect of beauty without using phrases of which any single one stands out, and without letting you know how she has done it.

Highlights -

'At the Bay'
'The Garden Party'
'The Daughters of the Late Colonel'
'Life of Ma Parker'
'The Voyage'
'Miss Brill'
'Her First Ball'
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews870 followers
May 6, 2023
“It's not your fault. Don't think that. It's just fate.”

Story Review: 'The Garden Party' by Katherine Mansfield - A Story that Makes You Feel the Ripples, So Much More than Waves

I first read Katherine Mansfield's The Garden Party probably 25 years ago. As a complete short story that operates on a number of levels, it still works. What I remembered most was the depiction of the young heroine's mental state as she grapples with the world represented by the garden party as well as the nearby village where a death has occurred. What if anything does this death have to do with her world? What obligation do the rich have for the poor? How does one death touch the rest of us? While it does not throw class in the reader's face, The Garden Party is compelling. It approaches the subject with a degree of subtlety, focusing not on a simple plot but on the minds of the people affected.

“Why does one feel so different at night? Why is it so exciting to be awake when everybody else is asleep? Late—it is very late! And yet every moment you feel more and more wakeful, as though you were slowly, almost with every breath, waking up into a new, wonderful, far more thrilling and exciting world than the daylight one.”
Profile Image for Dolors.
527 reviews2,219 followers
February 12, 2018
I could probably list like twenty good literary reasons to pick any of Mansfield’s collection of short stories; her prowess as a writer, her life experiences, which probably served as inspiration for many of her tales, the strong resemblance of her modern narrative outline with Chekov’s, the subtle portrayal of the quotidian as a still frame for social stereotyping and gender roles, her acute observations and insights into the human psyche… but I will stop here because I believe all those reasons are secondary to the matter at hand.

Mansfield is a must-read simply because she has a voice of her own, like no other, and her voice is magnetic, elegant, alert, and sharp as a needle. Her refreshing descriptive skills are never at odds with her poetic evocation of time and place and her characters possess a sinuous simplicity, a graceful spontaneity that exude vulgarity and charm in equal measures, making them faithful mirrors to our fears, expectations and concerns.
In Mansfield’s dexterous hands, even misery and frustration have a sense of rhythm that is suspended in time by the sheer delight of reading perfectly composed sentences that tell millions of stories within other stories, lifetimes within lifetimes, realities lost in what could have been, all of them tightly woven into a still moment, forever a possibility, immune to the passage of time.

Favorite stories in this collection:

* At the Bay
* Mr and Mrs Dove
* Marriage à la Mode
* Her First Ball
Profile Image for Kalliope.
691 reviews22 followers
December 25, 2020

I read this years ago as I was crossing New Zealand. As I was surrounded by the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen, I did not pay too much attention to the landscape descriptions in this collection of stories. They are not long descriptions; usually just a couple of very evocative sentences that made me pause in my reading, and reread them:
Out of the smudgy little window you could see an immense expanse of sad-looking sky, and whenever there were clouds they looked very worn, old clouds, frayed at the edges, with holes in them, or dark stains like tea.

In this second reading I was also much more aware of Mansfield’s themes – those of life and death, of women, of gender relations, of social differences. Her characters are most often women who seek to live a fuller life, or at least to decide for themselves.
That's the way to live - carelessly, recklessly, spending oneself. .. To take things easy, not to fight against the ebb and flow of life, but to give way to it... To live, to live!"

I've only one night or one day, and there's this vast dangerous garden, waiting out there, undiscovered unexplored.

For these women marriage and children are not particularly enthralling.
The point is - she shook her head - I couldn't possibly marry a man I laughed at.

he was so incredibly handsome the the looked like a mask or a most perfect illustration in an American novel rather than a man.

And what was left of her time was spent in the dread of having children.

Mansfield has an eye, or an ear, for those details that will succinctly portray and situate a person in his or her society:
She had become really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she did not listen, at sitting in other people's fives for just a minute while they talked round her.

Oh, would you trust a gold watch to a native?

Realizing that Mansfield died young, in her recurrent references to death, I felt uncomfortable.
The shortness of Life! The shortness of life!

Why did the photographs of dead people always fade so?.. as soon as a person was dead their

But I think what drew most of my attention was her narrative style; how she could take just a slice of life without a clear beginning, and most often with an open ended or ambiguous ending and flesh it out creating an absorbing encapsulating world. Mansfield was certainly a modernist but without the at time self-consciousness found in other writers. The most striking feature was her interlacing internal dialogues (not quite stream-of-consciousness) with observations of the outer world. Mansfield stories require an attentive reader since crucial elements could be easily missed. The stories nonetheless flow naturally; attentiveness does not imply mental games.

Apart from feelings of empathy, her short live made me regret Mansfield had not managed to leave us a more copious work.
Profile Image for kohey.
51 reviews193 followers
November 20, 2015
It is always a joyful occasion for me to meet an author whose words and phrases I cherish and reflect on in my mind.
I’m truly amazed at her imagination to capture every little moments in life,and to turn the unimaginable into the tangible through her sensitive and sometimes curious eyes.Fifteen short stories contained here are only an extension of mundane,everyday life,but it shows us a good indication of how colorful,passionate,and tragic our life can become under a great writer.I highly recommend this to every one who likes reading between the lines,and intricate nuances and charcters rather than plots.
This novel gives me pause to think one-sitting books aren’t always wonderful.
I’d like to save another star aside for rereading^ ^
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,228 reviews1,064 followers
September 4, 2022
The Garden Party is a short story by the New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield. It was first published in 1922 in the “Westminster Gazette” in three parts. Katherine Mansfield is known mostly for her short stories, many of which are quite astute. This one in particular poignantly reveals the vast social divide.

It begins with a deceptively charming and delightful air, focussing on the details and trivialities of life. A wealthy family called the Sheridans are preparing to host a party, in their perfectly maintained garden, ostensibly for their children. The central character is their younger daughter Laura, who is in excited anticipation of this garden party. Her job is to instruct the workmen on where to place the marquee.

Laura tries to hide the fact that she is scoffing bread and butter, and attempts to behave as her mother would. From this we realise straightaway how youthful and naive she must be, but she attempts to be haughty and detached, as she has observed is “correct”. However her true feelings of admiration for the workers soon emerge, and she wonders if she could be one herself. We are constantly privy to her innermost thoughts, and suspect that this story will be about Laura. It is, but it is perhaps not quite what we are to expect.

We watch the preparations for the party, and become aware of the beauty of the setting, and richness of all the foods, the finger sandwiches and cream puffs, on offer. We are thrust into the bounty and the happy optimism of the Sheridan residence, where everything is “perfect” and “delightful”; even Nature itself seems to respond to such a privileged, idealised state. The weather is perfect: blue skies “without a cloud”. The garden is “veiled with a haze of light gold … hundreds, yes literally hundreds, [of roses] have come out in a single night”. There is a vibrant atmosphere, despite the slightly discordant note struck by Laura’s mother, Mrs. Sheridan, and her elder sister Jose, both of whom seem only concerned with appearance and status, typically complacent and often intolerant members of the upper class to which they belong.

Throughout the day Laura is to grow increasingly conscious of her social position. For instance, we see that the moment that she goes back inside the house, Laura forgets all about her interest in erecting the marquee, and a fellow feeling for the workers, but becomes absorbed in a conversation about party dresses and the masses of pink canna lilies, which her mother has ordered.

Laura is constantly being steered by her family toward views which they consider proper for a young lady of her position. She is given an outfit which represents this, including a hat which initially Laura cannot imagine herself in. It seems overly grand and ornate to her, “trimmed with gold daisies, and a long black velvet ribbon”, but Mrs. Sheridan insists that the hat was “made for you”, so Laura’s doubts are quashed.

The story is mostly written in the third person, but slanted to allow us an in-depth understanding of Laura’s perspective, as well as a chance to observe her actions from the outside. On just a couple of occasions, we glimpse Mrs. Sheridan’s and Jose’s perspectives. We read Laura’s thoughts constantly, and the use of internal dialogue throughout the story, makes it easy to empathise with this young girl.

It seems quite modernist, and perhaps stream of consciousness, lacking a proper structure and unfolding in a few hours. It also has no real character descriptions or set beginning, allowing the context to bring each character and story to light as the story unfolds. Additionally, there are no male characters to speak of, and we have a female protagonist. The story seems concerned with domestic matters, yet an unexpected event is to turn this haven of bliss into a moral quandary for young Laura, who is about to discover the harsh reality of life.

The description of the nearby houses is in sharp contrast to the idealised luxury and upbeat feel of the Sheridans’ party. The sky here is not a perfect azure blue, but “pale”, the lane is “smoky and dark”, the cottages themselves, “mean” with just a “flicker of light”:

“the little cottages were in a lane to themselves at the very bottom of a steep rise that led up to the house. A broad road ran between. True, they were far too near. They were the greatest possible eyesore, and they had no right to be in that neighbourhood at all. They were little mean dwellings painted chocolate brown. In the garden patches there was nothing but cabbage stalks, sick hens and tomato cans. The very smoke coming out of their chimneys was poverty-stricken. Little rags and shreds of smoke, so unlike the great silvery plumes that uncurled from the Sheridan’s chimneys. Washerwomen lived in the lane and sweeps and a cobbler, and a man whose house was studded all over with minute bird-cages. Children swarmed. When the Sheridans were little they were forbidden to set foot there because of the revolting languages and of what they might catch. But since they were grown up, Laura and Laurie on their prowls sometimes walked through. It was disgusting and sordid. They came out with a shudder. But still one must go everywhere; one must see everything.”

As children, Laura, Jose, Meg, and Laurie were not allowed to go near the poor neighbours’ cottages, which are resented by the adults for spoiling their view. The contrast of these images is so great that it is hard to believe that they are part of the same world, never mind in close proximity. But they, and many others are, and we see that the author is deliberately describing how in the real world, these extremes of life are connected and dependent on each other. In life we have both beauty and ugliness, wealth and poverty, pleasure and suffering, joy and sorrow, childhood and adulthood, and life and death.

The final “Act” of the story, which I feel must have been the third installment, twists the knife even further. Laura’s mother has what she calls one of her “brilliant ideas”.

The ending of the story is ambiguous, probably deliberately so.

Interestingly The Garden Party is an almost autobiographical portrayal of Katherine Mansfield’s own experiences. Not only is the Sheridans’ residence based on her childhood home in Thorndon, Wellington, but she has written herself as Laura, the young girl from this wealthy, upper class family, who “seemed to be different from them all”. The Sheridans, who seem incapable of genuine sympathy toward the working classes, are caricatures of Katherine Mansfield’s own family. Laura is the only exception, who has strong misgivings about her family’s blasé attitude toward and their indifference to anyone they consider to be from a lower class.

The ending? I personally do not think any of the three possible interpretations here are more likely than any other. It could be that Laura accepts that the combination of all these conflicting things make life what it is, and she has learned to accept everything, even the things she does not want. She certainly has grown in a way, during the story. The hat is key.

Laura has been taught that in good society, one’s appearance should always take precedence. She is startled to see herself in the mirror, and realise that she has the appearance of beauty and maturity wearing the abominable hat. Yet when Laura find she cannot even say one sentence, such is her confusion. She just begins, “Isn’t life …” Laura is a young, impressionable girl, who is moved and baffled by what she has just seen and experienced, but her class values, and view of the world in general, is still developing, and remains fluid.

We may also view this story in a philosophical light. Which word would complete that sentence? “Good”? “Terrible?” “Complicated”? “Inconceivable”? “Wondrous”? “Beautiful”? Katherine Mansfield’s own philosophy of life was to attempt to experience life fully, but she believed that one had to accept everything it offers, whether good or bad. We will never know the end of Laura’s sentence, but it prompts us to wonder about the question of human existence.
Profile Image for Agnieszka.
258 reviews926 followers
June 19, 2018

Some of these stories feel more like impressions or sketches, seconds caught in one precise moment. The young protagonist from Her first ball, like the title itself implies, attends her very first ball, she’s excited and a little nervous, and observing dancers experiences disturbing thought: was this first ball only the beginning of the her last ball after all ?

Eponymous Miss Brill is a middle-aged woman spending her leisure time in park observing other people, considering it as a kind of play even she had a part to finally find herself an object of scrutiny and mockery from young couple. Or the hero from The stranger impatiently awaiting on the shore for his wife to find out that the latter was the only witness of death of young man on the ship, and this knowledge is like a thorn to him, for this revelation spoilt their being alone together. There always will be a ghost of young stranger between them.

Miss Meadows from The singing lesson is having a hard time because Basil broke off her engagement so the teacher orders the girls to sing sad melodies, but when it appears to be a false alarm the tone of the song changes radically. Mr and Mrs Dove in turn is a story of Reginald and Anne, he's docile and she's capricious and there is no chance for marriage, for it would mirror life of her birds, away she runs, and after her...comes poor Mr Dove, bowing and bowing...and that's their whole life.

This collection is rather uneven but it contains some gems, and these for me were The daughters of the late Colonel, in turns poignant and hilarious look at two old women facing reality after their despotic father’s death, the title Garden Party where young, sensitive Laura must face the truth that where some people are having good time others at this time die, and At the bay, rather novella than story, that looks like impressionistic picture, you almost can see brush strokes here and that reminded me a bit of Virginia Woolf.

Mansfield was a keen observer, both people and surrounding world. She has created a whole gallery of various types - from a jailbailt from The young girl, switching from babyish to coquettish demeanour, through The lady's maid dismissing chance for marriage and personal life to stay with her mistress to hunted old woman from Life of Ma Parker looking only for a place where she could hide and keep herself to herself. Mansfield looks closely at the world as well - the beach, the gardens, the writer's apartment, the dead old man's room or the ladies' dressing room. She had an eye for detail and these stories are like little etudes from ordinary life, excercises from mundanity; seemingly nothing happens and life just goes on.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,549 reviews1,825 followers
January 12, 2019
I wondered as I read, Mansfield seemed to be somewhere between Chekhov and Kafka, but I only see tuberculosis linking the three. Short fragments of an emotional life revealed. Have you ever seen the mirror scene from Duck Soup? I picture Virgina Woolf and Katherine Mansfield like that the same, but different, but one maybe clinging to an idealised lost mother, the other keen to escape, the mirror in fragments.

In the face of death, which in a variety of flavours seems present in all these stories either as an event, a presence, a promise, or at a slight remove - social death, the death of hopes. In the face of all this death there is a hunger for emotional intimacy, but (The Stranger) it can't compete, death will play the last card and win the trick. I was struck by An ideal Family how the work of the paterfamilias funds the leisured life of the rest of the family, this is a familiar notion, even still an ideal, yet here it is deeply unsatisfactory, the father doesn't really recognise his youngest daughter and there is a strong sense that neither daughters nor wife have any connection with him anymore, this deeply normative division of labour is here fundamentally alienating and the old man can only dream of his tired body walking away mechanically without him.

The first story in this collection At the Bay is like a single continuous panning camera shot flowing from character to character, person to person. Personally I lost track completely, when characters reappeared in camera view I could not remember if they were children last seen playing on the beach or adults held rigid and upright by imperial corsetry (corsets, upon reflection pop up regularly in these stories too). So I might feel this was still a writer learning her craft, playing with styles and approaches, a Virginia Woolf working on a broader social canvas on a smaller scale. A sense of a slightly desperate playfulness, laughing before the plague, a keenness for emotional intimacy which will either be denied or achieved at a cost (Mr & Mrs Dove, Marriage a la Mode).

I am struck by how unrelenting Mansfield's vision is in the face of death one only strives for emotional contact or shrinks from life, nothing else gives comfort, not the natural world - people only recognise Roses apparently although some plants can be used as set dressing - though they may damage one's clothes (The Garden Party), there is music but that seems to come from one's emotional state so it reflects rather than transforms (The Singing Lesson). Hedonism is possible and has value as a distraction from DEATH but that's about it. It gives a double sense of the outsider to her writing, not only was she a colonial, but also disconnected from the normal business of the daily grind, because for her that rat race would be far shorter than average and had no power to blind her to the looming grave.
Profile Image for Georgia Scott.
Author 3 books156 followers
November 22, 2022
If I could save just one sentence from a fire, it would be this one from The Garden Party:

"And the perfect afternoon slowly ripened, slowly faded, slowly its petals closed."

Here is life in all its order. Rhythmic in sound and symbol, hushed as a prayer. Read it again out loud. Though "loud" is all wrong. It's impossible to say without nearly whispering the words. Assonance and alliteration are the paint pots of poets. Yet, Mansfield uses them here. Expertly, she conveys a picture of perfect roses. Just the thing for the perfect garden party. Isn't perfection what this family is all about? There is a perfect spot for the tables. There are multiple varieties of sandwiches to meet every guest's taste. Perfection. That is the aim. And praise for its makers. That's the point of the event. And the story. Right?

But someone dies, you say. Someone does. That's not nice, you add. I agree. That's life though. It goes on in spite of sorrow. It must and we must. Say after me:

"And the perfect afternoon slowly ripened, slowly faded, slowly its petals closed."

There is strength sometimes in acceptance. As for praise, that's a tough one. It's one thing to give thanks for what we get. But thanks for what is taken is another thing. These and more thoughts come to me reading this deceptively simple short story. If that's just me, give it a try yourself and see.

Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,196 reviews9,485 followers
August 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 https://www.quantcast.com/goodreads.com 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.

Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
570 reviews3,947 followers
June 27, 2021
Relatos que encierran la tragedia dentro de lo cotidiano.
Me ha gustado mucho la voz de Mansfield, una mezcla de Virginia Woolf y Chéjov... Desde luego el relato que más más me ha gustado ha sido 'Fiesta en el jardín', pero también me encantaron 'Las hijas del difunto coronel' y 'Vida de Ma Parker'. El resto me gustaron pero creo que no permanecerán mucho tiempo en mi memoria... Seguiré leyendo a esta autora, me ha parecido que tiene una sensibilidad muy especial
Pd. Para leer a poquitos
Profile Image for Lynne King.
490 reviews657 followers
August 22, 2013
When I was going through my “Bloomsbury period” about twenty years ago, I read everything I could about the “central members”, and as a consequence Katherine Mansfield came into the equation through being a friend of Virginia Woolf. I read biographies about the former which I loved as she appeared to be such an interesting and gifted person; and I particularly enjoyed the biography by Antony Alpers which delves into many other aspects of her somewhat short tragic life, including “her final search for truth in the teachings of the Russian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff.”

I found her letters and journals excellent but her short stories rather “slow” and “lacklustre” at the time (many people will no doubt disagree with me). Nevertheless, I thought that perhaps now was a good time to try some different unread stories by her; “The Garden Party and Other Stories” seemed as good a time as ever.

It’s interesting to note how her friends viewed her and that “Virginia Woolf once said: “I was jealous of her writing. The only writing I have ever been jealous of.’ Woolf also, jealously, wrote, “the more she is praised, the more I am convinced she is bad.”

And as for “D.H. Lawrence, with whom Mansfield had a fraught friendship. Well can you imagine a supposed “friend” behaving in the following fashion? On one occasion he visited Wellington, New Zealand, her birthplace, and was moved to send Mansfield a postcard bearing a single Italian word, ‘Ricordi’ (‘memories’). It was a small and cryptic gesture of reconciliation; they’d fallen out badly and in his previous letter he had said ‘You are a loathsome reptile - I hope you will die.’

Returning to this book, as I’ve digressed, I think the fifteen stories that make up this set are skilfully written, but not for me.

Many people, no doubt, will also agree on the following review that was given about this book:

“Innovative, startlingly perceptive and aglow with colour, these fifteen stories were written towards the end of Katherine Mansfield's tragically short life. Many are set in the author's native New Zealand, others in England and the French Riviera. All are revelations of the unspoken, half-understood emotions that make up everyday experience - from the blackly comic "The Daughters of the Late Colonel", and the short, sharp sketch "Miss Brill", in which a lonely woman's precarious sense of self is brutally destroyed, to the vivid impressionistic evocation of family life in "At the Bay". 'All that I write,' Mansfield said, 'all that I am - is on the borders of the sea. It is a kind of playing.”

If I hadn’t read this book before reading that review, I would have been swayed immediately and acquired it and that’s for sure. But I’m street-wise now, in that I’ve recently found out I’m my own person and will not let others influence me. That’s what I’m saying now anyway.

There’s a certain naivety about “The Garden Party”. I also found it odd that two such similar names were used for the brother and sister, Laurie and Laura Sheridan. She is supposedly in charge of organizing the garden party, as her mother doesn’t really feel up to it, and has the very “difficult task” of having to decide the exact location of the marquee. She also rather likes the workmen involved there.

“Oh, how extraordinarily nice workmen were, she thought. Why couldn’t she have workmen for her friends rather than the silly boys she danced with and who came to Sunday night supper? She would get on much better with men like these.”

It’s all very frivolous and absurd in that she is confined inside her own safe world with comfortable surroundings (the family has a tennis court, and for the garden party there are many flowers, niceties and yet a vulgarity such as flags on sandwiches, etc.), and yet it’s “us” as opposed to “them”, i.e. the working class, the unfortunate creatures who live along the road. So when a poor young carter, Mr Scott, is killed rather closely to their house, Laura wants to have the garden party cancelled as a sign of respect:

“But we can’t possibly have a garden-party with a man dead just outside the front gate.”

Nevertheless, her very silly mother breathes a sigh of relief when she hears that he has not been killed on their property and so that was fine to continue with the garden party. Laura is thus dispatched at her mother’s insistence to visit the widow, carrying some of the “remains” of their garden party food in a basket (what an insult) and upon arrival there, she is quite horrified to find herself in this “disgusting” working class house and then the biggest humiliation arrives when she is forced to view Mr Scott laid out in the house:

“There lay a young man, fast asleep – sleeping so soundly, so deeply, that he was far, far away from them both. Oh, so remote, so peaceful. He was dreaming. Never wake him up again…..He was given up to his dream. What did garden-parties and baskets and lace frocks matter to him? He was far from all those things. He was wonderful, beautiful.” And Laura wanted to cry.

I have ambivalent feelings about this story in that I loved and loathed it at the same time. The last two paragraphs of this short story were inane and I nearly abandoned the book there and then. But then again, I reasoned, the others may be better? That’s the beauty of short stories, there’s always choice.

“Miss Brill” and her fur, I must admit, were slightly different and there is a rather amusing ending.

“Although it was so brilliantly fine – the blue sky powdered with gold and great spots of light like white wine splashed over the Jardins Publiques – Miss Brill was glad that she had decided on her fur.”

“Her First Ball” with Leila was also good, The wonders of the dance and the “quite an old man – fat, with a big bald patch on his head – took her programme and murmured, “Let me see, let me see” and disappears… with an excellent ending too.

On the whole though, the other twelve stories are rather mundane and I’m not too impressed with the writing style or the content. Short stories have to sparkle and these appear to be trite and meaningless, and so, so dated; well to me anyway. I’m sure, however, that there are many people who love the works of this author.
April 9, 2022
I came across Katherine Mansfield rather unexpectedly when I was reading The Illustrated Letters of Virginia Woolf. According to those letters, Katherine Mansfield was a good friend of Woolf, and Woolf was even quoted to have said that she was somewhat jealous of Mansfield and her gift for writing.

Personally, I think they are both equally gifted writers, and I enjoyed this collection of stories, and ironically, my favourite was in fact "The garden party". It was incredibly twee, but it was just what I needed at this particular time in my life.

As with many short story collections, I usually have mixed feelings, and it is rare that I happen to love them all. This book is no exception. I loved three of them, but the rest were fairly bland. The writing style was whimsical and it kept me entertained, but the content was lacking somewhat. I wanted those short stories to blow me away, but unfortunately, that was not the case.

I think Mansfield was a wonderful wordsmith, who was tragically taken before her time, and I definitely intend to read more of her works.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,297 reviews2,293 followers
December 5, 2021
I absolutely love reading Sylvia Platt and Virginia Woolf. And I wasn't expecting Katherine Manfield's writing and the central themes of it would be mainly about women and our roles. But hell yes, I was surprised and I was surprised good.
I love how the characters are so visible and thorough.

These stories talk about melancholy and solitude in most; speaks bluntly about the want and the need to feel important yet how futile it seems.

Some stories portray relatable characters when they just couldn't make up their mind about the most feeble things. But most importantly the author dealt with what's most important to everyone, young or old, that intense need to be understood and find ourselves when we need us for us.

1. At the Bay
5 🌟
2. The Garden Party
5 🌟
3. The Daughters of the Late Colonel
3 🌟
4. Mr and Mrs Dove
5 🌟
5. The Young Girl
3 🌟
6. Life of Ma Parker
5 🌟
7. Marriage à la Mode
4 🌟
8. The Voyage
4 🌟
9. Miss Brill
3 🌟
10. Her First Ball
3 🌟
11. The Singing Lesson
3 🌟
12. The Stranger
3 🌟
13. Bank Holiday
4 🌟
14. An Ideal Family
15. The Lady's Maid
5 🌟

A beautiful collection. One of the best classic short story collections I have come across.
Profile Image for Werner.
Author 3 books578 followers
August 30, 2018
Katherine Mansfield died in 1923 at the age of 34, her life cut short by tuberculosis. But during her short writing career, she created a significant corpus of short fiction that has earned her a place ever since among the recognized great English-language practitioners of the format. This is one of only three of her stories (if I recall correctly) that I've read, but I've highly appreciated all three. I've read this one at least twice, most recently last night; so it's still fresh in my mind for reviewing. As a rule, I don't write reviews of individual short stories that I originally read in anthologies, but some of the discussion in a thread in one of my Goodreads groups (where some of us read/are reading the tale as a common read) convinced me to make an exception in this case.

This review benefited from the analysis portion of this unsigned Internet article: https://www.gradesaver.com/the-garden... , though I don't agree with it in every detail, and from reviews by some of my Goodreads friends, especially the one by Jean: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... . My thoughts are my own, but the thoughts of others help to stimulate and clarify them!

Mansfield's style is Realist, and modernist, influenced particularly by Chekhov (at least in the judgment of critics who've read his short stories --I haven't-- and can compare the two writers); she was definitely a Chekhov fan. She writes with a sharp eye for character; her prose is clear and sharply honed, and the composition of her stories, including this one, well and carefully crafted. Some have labeled this story "stream-of-consciousness," and compared her writing here to Woolf, but I wouldn't go that far; Mansfield writes more coherently than Woolf did in some of her work. It's also not true that this story is "plotless;" it does focus, ultimately, on a particular meaningful incident, but there's a definite journey we follow to get to that point. Because Mansfield is usually classified (and I classify her myself) as a British writer, who wrote in England, most readers probably assume, as I originally did, that the not-explicitly-stated setting of the story is also British, possibly in London. But she was born and raised in New Zealand, and there are internal indications that the setting of the story is actually modeled on her family's home in Wellington, where she grew up. (Laura in the story, like Douglas Spaulding in Ray Bradbury's Green Town novels and stories, may well be the author's own alter ego.)

Like many short stories, this one is difficult to review without spoilers; and it's also difficult to assess thematically, partly because Mansfield's writing is intentionally ambiguous in places --she allows readers, at the end, to draw their own conclusions about the message. (But she doesn't leave us without clues.) The author's protest at the rancid class system of England and its colonies in that day (though it's not confined to that day, or to England) is obviously one message. But it's not, IMO, the only one; there are also themes of coming-of-age, of a young person's first actual encounter with death as a present reality (and grappling with what death means), and questions of what matters in life. Personally, I don't accept the very negative view of Laura and her perceptions at the end of the story that some reviewers espouse (the probability that Mansfield identified with her suggests that she's moving in a more positive direction), even while I don't quite take as positive a view of her learnings from this experience as the nameless author of the article linked to above does. She's a work in progress, with growing to do; but I think we should see the day depicted here as a genuine growing experience. (It would help if we knew Laura's age; but that's never stated, which would be my only real quibble with the author's craftsmanship here.)

As a final note, it's been suggested that the use of a female protagonist in short fiction is groundbreaking here. In American short fiction, writers of the preceding period like Jewett, Freeman, Kate Douglas Wiggin, etc. had used female protagonists extensively. But similar examples don't come to mind as readily for British short stories, so Mansfield may indeed have been breaking ground in that context.
Profile Image for Marchpane.
293 reviews2,133 followers
June 5, 2019
Tender and understated, the stories in The Garden Party and Other Stories are like little studies in empathy. It has a bit of an ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ vibe in that many of the stories are about well-off, genteel families, while others give a glimpse into the lives of their servants, or poorer neighbours. Mansfield seems mostly interested in the secret hurts people carry within themselves; there’s a vulnerable quality to each of her characters – whether it be a shy nervousness, pangs of regret or bone-deep grief – which they are all hiding beneath a brittle outer shell of stoicism. Gentle, quietly moving, lovely. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
519 reviews420 followers
February 13, 2021
This collection of short stories is my first experience with Katherine Mansfield. True to any short story collection, the enjoyment of it was varied; some of the stories I liked a lot, some were alright, and a few were not to my liking. This is to be expected when you read many different stories in a considerable short length; it is not easy to jump from one story to another and connect equally with the different characters and the different stories.

Most of the stories in The Garden Party and Other Stories reflect on the lives of women, and if you follow them closely, you can find common thematic grounds in many of them. Mansfield exposes various themes in this collection, but, life, death, marriage, family, and duty play a dominant role. Written in the last years of her life, Mansfield's own deep reflections on life and death have been poured into these stories. There is undeniably a lot of depth in them; one needs a lot of patience and concentration to understand and appreciate what was being said. These in-depth meditations, while suited some, were quite unfitting for some others, given their short length. On the whole, I think the stories were a little too short for her dense exploration, and hence, the meanings were lost in some of them.

Those which connected with me the most were The Garden Party, Marriage A La Mode, The Singing Lesson, and The Stranger. I enjoyed Mansfield's deeper penetration into life, death, love, and marriage in them. Although most of these were penned from a woman's point of view, Mansfield is balanced and has done her due by men as well.

While I enjoyed her thematic explorations, what drew me most to this story collection is her writing. It is beautiful; mostly realistic, but abstract, too. It has such a dreamy quality which, if I may, can be compared with only one other - and that is of Virginia Woolf's. Also, Mansfield's words are powerful. They compel us to go through her stories, even those which are not to our taste. I find that quite remarkable. Although my overall rating of the collection borders on the average, I'm very much keen on reading her more. Now that I somewhat understand her style, I need to choose the right time and mood to read her, just like I do when I read Virginia Woolf.
Profile Image for Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ .
797 reviews585 followers
February 6, 2019
It was time for me to revisit the work of my favourite New Zealand author, Katherine Mansfield.

KM wrote the way an Impressionist painter painted -with deft paint strokes she painted her world. Plagued with ill health, her life was cut tragically short, dying at Fountainbleau when aged only 34. This collection of short stories,published just before her death, contain some of her finest work.

At the Bay.

One of the stories set in NZ with a fictionalised version of KMs family. Crescent Beach is Days Bay. (now part of Wellington) My husband grew up near by - even

The notes with my Penguin give the setting as Karori, but it definitely isn't. Karori is an inland suburb.

KM handles multiple POV effortlessly.

I liked the impressionist style and lack of plot. Probably a little long. For me 4★

The Garden Party

Wow what a mistresspiece this jewel of a short story is. A child's bewilderment at her world is beautifully realised. Possibly some symbolism by Mansfield as a poverty stricken New Zealander living in England but not really fitting in in British society? 5★

The Daughters of the Late Colonel

This is clever writing! Both comedy & tragicomedy. 5★

Mr and Mrs Dove

This is sweet. & cleverly written. Maybe needed to be fleshed out a bit more. 4.5★

The Young Girl

More clever writing! A young girl with all the affectations of a modern teen 5★

Life of Ma Barker

Incredibly sad & moving! 5★

Marriage a la Mode

The story most open to different interpretations. 5★

The Voyage

Beautiful writing of the slice of life kind. 4★

Miss Brill

For me, the saddest story. My heart ached before I started reading (as I knew what was coming) I wish I could give 6★, but 5 it is.

Her First Ball

Doesn't KM capture the feeling of anticipation you felt for your first ball/dance? Another story based on KM's own family 5★

The Singing Lesson

Well written, but all a bit obvious. By far the weakest for me! 3★

The Stranger

I've had to read this one through twice. After the first time I felt like I had missed something. A tale of smothering possessiveness. Again, I wish I could give it more, but 5★ it is.

Bank Holiday

Mansfield at her most Impressionist. A beautiful fragment. 4★

The Ideal Family

Another one that should be 6★. Amazing writing.

& finally

The Lady's Maid

A tale of manipulation. KM captures the dialogue so beautifully. 5★
Profile Image for Pauline Reid .
334 reviews104 followers
January 7, 2020
Book Review by Pauline Reid 🔥 The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield
What This Book Is About
Although the book I have says, The Garden Party, there were more short stories within the book, including The Garden Party itself, 15 featured.
The main story - The Garden Party .... Well of course there is great excitement that there is going to be a garden party. Laura was the observant girl, who watches the work men put the marquee together, eating her bread and butter on the way.... apparently the piano needed to be moved.... florist at the door with Canna Lillies.... whole trays of them. Then something tragic happens and alot of debate on whether the party should go ahead or not.
My Thoughts on this book
I picked up this book, purely because Katherine Mansfield is a very notorious NZ author. We have a themed garden at the Hamilton Gardens in relation to this book and I thought I had better educate myself on an author that was famous within New Zealand.
Straight away I noticed that Katherine Mansfield uses a very poetic styled story prose. Katherine Mansfield turns the most simplistic object into a a fist full of feelings. It made me look around me with a different prospective. Her style is quite unique at sometimes, I wasn't quite sure whether I was reading a story, or more, reading her thoughts.
There were so many little stories to be admired in this book, I will mention a few that really stood out for me.
At the Bay - the first story in the book, I reminisced over Kezia, she was a messy child according to Mrs Fairfield, as she dug a river down the middle of her porridge, the same sort of thing I used to do, although mine was an island, the milk running around the edge of the plate and you couldn't have porridge without brown sugar!!
I loved the banter of the girls in, The Daughters of the Late Colonel, Kate, Josephine and Constanta discussing how you like your fish, fried or boiled. Infact, I've never heard of boiled fish before, although I've had boil in a bag fish, with sauce and that's yummy, and then at the end, everything was forgotten.
I found a couple of new words that held my interest and that I had to look up - piffle (which means nonsense), Johnny cake (cornmeal flat bread)
Rating System
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes classic books, who likes poetry, who likes lots of descriptive words and I suggest that NZ readers should pick up this book due to the fact that Katherine Mansfield is a notorious NZ author.
Profile Image for Lee.
345 reviews8 followers
January 25, 2023
No wonder Virginia Woolf was jealous. Stories unlike anyone else's (apart from Chekhov, who was less enamoured of people). You can see the influence on writers like Sylvia Townsend Warner, Ali Smith et al -- the desire to capture or portray the ineffably bittersweet -- but these are uniquely wonderful.
Profile Image for Helle.
376 reviews371 followers
December 25, 2015
(3.5 stars) Katherine Mansfield creates stories set in a small, narrow world in which the details of life seem to be blown all out of proportion, at least to the sensibilities of a (this) modern reader. On the other hand, the same details take on a curious kind of importance in her stories precisely because they are singled out; it’s as if they are encased in glass for readers to gaze at and contemplate precisely because of their minuteness, which puts them in the very foreground of life for our scrutiny and wonder.

Mansfield’s stories have an ephemeral quality to them. Even when her topics combine alienation and love – and they often do – there is something almost soothing, certainly mystical, about them. In many of the stories she expertly shows us how life sometimes hinges on the smallest events; in others she dwells on the frivolity of certain life styles and the indulgent insouciance of some of the people living these lives.

There are fifteen stories in all in this collection, which, to me, represent everything between a 2.5 and a 5 star reading experience. To mention a few:

At the Bay is an impressionistic ‘story’ – painting rather - that has no plot but is centred around a summer resort in New Zealand and is full of musings on nature and life. The texture of it reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. A bit more story wouldn’t have been amiss.

The Garden Party takes a look at the privileged life of the upper classes and their superficiality and sets it, jarringly, against a fatal accident (which reminded me of Mrs. Dalloway’s party when someone inadvertently mentions death, upsetting her state of mind). True to Mansfield’s love of symbols, a big, velvet hat is involved.

The Daughters of the Late Colonel is my favourite in this collection. I first read it at uni many years ago and still find it utterly brilliant. Mansfield weaves a special kind of magic here in how she shows the dread felt by two spinsters at the death of their father while simultaneously, tragically even, illustrating how they feel a kind of Stockholm syndrome and cannot escape their own sense of confinement even when freedom is right under their nose. Just exquisite.

Marriage á la Mode is a rather devastating portrait of a marriage, demonstrating the social inadequacy and cruelty that pervade many of her stories. Again, I was reminded of Woolf, this time her short story The Legacy, which also deals in mutual alienation and treachery.

Some of the other stories felt a bit tepid to me and tried my patience. When she is at her best, however, she seems to take her readers for a ride. The characters take on a life of their own, revealing all through their internal monologues and dialogues, often baffling us. Subtle, strange, impressionistic, her short stories were an absolutely unique contribution to the genre.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,738 reviews1,468 followers
March 23, 2021
Here follows a free online link to the short story The Garden Party:


In just a minimum of pages Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) captures remarkably well the personality of a naïve, privileged adolescent girl. She is sweet, has a conscience and does like looking pretty. What girl doesn’t? We meet Laura Sheridon, her mother, her father, two older sisters, an older brother and a younger one. Servants fill the background, each doing their appointed tasks. A garden party is to be held that afternoon. The marquee must be set up, the flowers fashionably displayed, the sandwiches and the yummy cream puffs arranged on platters. It is a glorious, sunny day. We are there in the hubbub. We watch who does what, who sits back and orders others around and who really makes the decisions. We listen to what they say and think about what their words actually mean. The story is a character study.

Wait, more happens!

Word goes out that a fatal accident has occurred. No, nothing has happened to one of the family. Thank God! It is only one of the working families that live nearby, one of the “ordinary folk” who has died. I hope you hear my sarcasm.

Laura, young and naïve, not yet aware of the ways of the world, thinks the party must be stopped. Will it be stopped and what do each in the family think about stopping it? Laura’s mother says, ”People like that don’t expect sacrifices from us!”

The story is a commentary on social order and class. It is a commentary on human behavior. It is also about being young, growing up and “learning” from one’s elders. What if that we absorb in our youth from our parents and from other members of the class to which we belong is narrowminded and wrong? Is this why human behavior changes so little from generation to generation?

What makes the story good is that while it delivers its message it also lets you smile along the way. Watch how Laura, bread and butter in hand, goes out to instruct the workers putting up the tent. Even she realizes that it is pretty darn difficult to authoritatively give orders with bread and butter in one’s hand! There is nowhere she can throw it, and she may want a nibble later! C’mon, picture this. Draw it in your head. Doesn’t it make you smile? Her thoughts on the workers, one in particular, are amusing too.

Wait till you see what she has to do at the end. Mansfield captures her youth and naivety well.

Read the story. It is light. It is fun. It is good. It is short. You have no excuse, the link to it is right there up above!
Profile Image for Iris ☾ (dreamer.reads).
444 reviews892 followers
December 13, 2021
Katherine Mansfield fue una de las escritoras más influyentes y que sin lugar a dudas, revolucionó la narrativa de cuentos y relatos cortos. Su muerte prematura deja huérfanos a sus lectores, y deseando más de su narración sensible y de su agudeza exquisita para plasmar y penetrar en la intimidad de las relaciones humanas. En este recopilatorio hallaremos siete escritos titulados: El viento sopla, Felicidad, La señorita Brill, Vida de Ma Parker, Las hijas del difunto coronel, Fiesta en el jardín y La mosca publicados entre 1911 y 1922.

Si hay algo obvio e indudable es que el estilo narrativo de la autora es maravilloso y que tendría mucho más renombre si hubiera vivido más años y nos hubiera podido brindar numerosos cuentos o quién sabe, quizás alguna novela. Katherine describe la vida cotidiana, se sumerge en describirnos las relaciones sociales de la clase media a la perfección. Indaga en las penas, en la felicidad, en la diferencia de clases e incluso en el egoísmo del ser humano.

Ella misma señaló que su escritura estaba influenciada por Chéjov, uno de los autores que tengo más pendientes y que deseo encarecidamente leer el próximo año sin más demora pero también he sentido en ciertos momentos que su estilo me recordaba al de Virginia Woolf, con la que además mantuvo una amistad. Sin poder comparar, solo os puedo decir que este es un compendio delicado y primoroso y del que debo destacar: Las hijas del difunto coronel, Felicidad y Fiesta en el jardín.

Mansfield aparenta sencillez pero sus historias son excepcionales, no sucede nada transcendente, es realmente como si se narraran hechos de las vidas de estos personajes en momentos en concreto donde sus almas cambiaban o se veían alteradas por algún hecho. Tiene una destreza digna de mención al escoger las palabras adecuadas, centrándose principalmente en pequeños detalles que son mucho más importantes de lo que aparentan.

En definitiva, solo me queda añadir que he disfrutado enormemente de todos y cada uno de los relatos de esta selección, unos me han gustado más que otros pero ninguno me ha dejado indiferente. Pocas veces he hallado situación parecida, pero la autora me ha emocionado, me ha llevado por el camino que ella deseaba y ha logrado que me vuelva loca intentando buscar más textos suyos. Si os apetece leer algo ligero, escrito exquisitamente bien, aprovechad la oportunidad, buscad este libro que además de económico, tiene una traducción digna de mención y elogio.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
August 10, 2016
I read some Katherine Mansfield during my year of reading Oceania, since she is from New Zealand, and knew I needed to read more. This set of stories is from the end of her life, the same era as the years right after the first world war. The endings are often obscure, and would make for great discussion in a group.

Another element of Mansfield's stories that I really like is that the NZ landscape is always present. The first story, "At the Bay," really highlights this on a coastal sheep farm where more is going on than just a few sheep!

"The Garden Party" creates a perfect awkward moment that has no good solution, definitely a good cringe for the reader. "Mr. and Mrs. Dove" might be the most realistic love story I've read (or is it?), and "The Voyage" has a secret that is at first masked by traveling clothes. I suppose the trick to Mansfield is that she is never writing about what it appears she is at first, and the joy is in the discovery.

I received an advance copy of this new edition from the publisher through Edelweiss, although these stories had previously been published.
Profile Image for fourtriplezed .
456 reviews98 followers
June 29, 2022
I first heard of Katherine Mansfield after an afternoon tour bus took me to her house in Wellington New Zealand. Pressed for time and wanting to see the sites a few of us took up the chance of seeing this damn fine city and part of the tour was her house. Being the reading type I got this famous title and now after many a year have finally read it.

First I have enjoyed it though it took me to read an explainer after the first story that had left me wondering what I was missing, Modernism apparently. Once I got the gist of what was trying to be achieved, I enjoyed these short stories a lot more than I might have.

The style seemed all very much a comment on the bourgeois middle class of the times, with a couple of exceptions. Also, very colonial, but then Katherine Mansfield was of that class.

I suspect that this is not really my style of literature, glad to have read and enjoyed it but now know why I did not enjoy Virginia Woolf when I read her in my youth. I further suspect that I would not have enjoyed this if I was made to read it in high school.
Profile Image for Betsy Robinson.
Author 9 books1,042 followers
March 11, 2018
Katherine Mansfield lived from 1888 to 1923, but she would have been revolutionary in any era, and she is an obvious predecessor to John Cheever and Shirley Jackson in their tradition of exposing the underbelly of families and working men. This collection of fifteen stories and sketches illustrates class differences and tensions in 1910s–'20s Europe, and Mansfield manages to straddle the shallowness culturally required of women in the time and what lies underneath it. (Don't read the preface until after you read the whole book—it reveals stories' endings.) I enjoyed the free-flying nature of the writing. The title story is the real tour de force, but the whole book is worth reading—particularly if you are interested in the early twentieth century upper-crust sound and customs.

Here are briefs, written as I finished each story.

At the Bay is a cinematic yet microscopic trip from early morning to night in the lives of several families living in a small beach town (probably in New Zealand, unlike the other stories' European locales) The writing is free in the best sense. Unbounded, it flows from reality to fantasies, ripping off facades and showing a more real reality. Although this was written in the early 1920s, the writing is experimentally bold and the people are familiar in any century—because both writing and people are honest.

The Garden Party moves like a locomotive, not even pausing as pretensions collide with truth and shatter. Young Laura stands at the apex between the willfully shallow concerns of her upper class garden-party-hosting family and her own awareness of the unfairness of class divides. This is a stunning story. It urgently expresses all the well-honed shallowness endemic to denial of other people's pain, the seductiveness of privilege even as it requires you to deny what you know is true and fair, the self-congratulatory nature of this realization and concurrent superiority complex, the crash of that superior pretension when it encounters authentic devastation, and finally the chaos of being aware of the whole messy drama. This is a story of the 1920s but it has something to say about any era. In the space of a few pages, Mansfield writes an epic. And this is because of her daring leaps—in time, thoughts, and action—trusting the reader to stay with her, and we do. This is the opposite of Women's Fiction: just the essentials, allowing what's not said to scream.

I'm really enjoying Mansfield's style in The Daughters of the Late Colonel. Two flibbertigibbet sisters cope after the death of their father, and the way profound concerns about life and meaning surface is wonderful.

Mr. and Mrs. Dove is a mating ritual of manners.

The Young Girl is kind of a character study of an angry seventeen-year-old upper-class British girl on a holiday in France in the 1920s. I don't know if I'm reading this into the story, but it seems to me to express the frustration women secretly felt in the customs and expressions that feel like being trapped in a corset.

Life of Ma Parker, the hopeless story of cleaning woman with a very hard life, could be hard to follow, but by the time I got to this place in the book, I'd become accustomed to the style and transitions.

Marriage a la Mode broke my heart. This is a John Cheever type commuter/marriage story set in the 1920s.

The Voyage evokes all the feelings of leaving home for somewhere new and unknown, from a child's eye view.

Miss Brill is a story that people watchers will relate to. Since I am one, I think it's brilliant.

Her First Ball is a time travel trip for the reader and the protagonist. If I ever wanted a firsthand nitty gritty experience of a ball in the early twentieth century, this was it. But not only did it transport me to a new experience, but within the story, the protagonist is further transported to her own old age. Wonderful story.

The Singing Lesson is an emotional roller coaster ride that a lot of co-dependent women will relate to. But the genius of it is how Mansfield exposes the fickleness of it. That it should end on a positive note for the protagonist indicates her complete disconnection from true emotional reality.

The Stranger again shows the collision of obsession and manners with real feeling. Brilliantly done.

Bank Holiday is a word painting, not a story. Like a camera, Mansfield pans around crowds enjoying a holiday (in England somewhere) and zooms in and vividly describes each scene. The writing is so good you can taste it.

An Ideal Family, the story of old Mr. Neave in his "perfect family," evokes the work of Mansfield's successors, John Cheever and Shirley Jackson. It's a description of family life that exposes what's hidden.

The Lady's Maid is a character sketch of a servant in the form of a monologue. Once again, the truth surfaces through the façade. This is good enough to work as an actor's monologue. It begs to be performed.
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