British Empire Books

Katherine Mansfield Selected Stories

AuthorKatherine Mansfield
PublisherOxford World's Classics
Originally Published1953
This Edition1998
ISBN No.0192835165

"When she was quite close to him she took her hand from under her pinafore and gave him a telegram and smiled and went away. There's a funny present! thought Henry, staring at it. 'Perhaps it's only a make-believe one, and it's got one of those snakes inside it that fly up at you.' He laughed gently in the dream and opened it very carefully. 'It's just a folded paper.' He took it out and spread it open.

The garden became full of shadows - they spun a web of darkness over the cottage and the trees and Henry and the telegram. But Henry did not move."

I've always chosen short stories to read at bedtime. Like most bedtime readers, I focus on the story at hand, forgetting all the business and real-life pressures of the day. When finished, I turn out the lights and allow myself to reflect on the characters and/or the moral(s) of the story as I drift off to sleep.

Not so with this book -- at least, not in the same way. As I finished the first story, I had to ask myself - What had I missed? Why had this story ended as it had? Was this really the end?

It wasn't that Mansfield's writing was unclear. On the contrary, she wrote in a simple style that was easy and enjoyable to follow. Her descriptions painted a clear picture in my head and I moved from one moment to the next. Each one of her stories was a familiar one: a first love, broken promises, marriage, war, infidelity, death of a loved one, and so on. Her characters demonstrated a wide range of emotions and, for the most part, I was convinced of their authenticity.

It wasn't until I digested a few of the stories that I began to understand some of the more elusive endings. That is, no matter what the storyline, the ultimate conclusion seemed to be that a person could never live happily for any length of time. It wasn't as if everything was always sad, but rather that happiness was inherently short-lived and, at times, superficial.

All of the stories take place between 1914 and 1924, and many of them in her home country, New Zealand.

The book is well worth at least one read.

Buy this book at: Amazon

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by Stephen Luscombe