Katherine Mansfield - The Short Stories - Volume 1 (Audiobook)
Read by Richard Mitchley, Ghizela Rowe & Eve Karpf (Unabridged: 1hr 38mins)
In this series we look at short stories from many of our most accomplished writers. Miniature masterpieces with a lot to say. This volume is dedicated to one such recognised master of the short story, namely, Katherine Mansfield whose innovative stream of consciousness and symbolic narrative style profoundly influenced Virginia Woolf.
She was born on 14th October, 1888 into a prominent family in Wellington, New Zealand, the middle child of five. A gifted celloist, who at one point considered taking it up professionally her first attempts at writing were published in school magazines.
At 19 Katherine left for Great Britain and, on arriving, quickly joined the social circles of modernist writers such as Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence who became a close friend.
She travelled to Europe before returning to New Zealand in 1906. Katherine then began to write the short stories that she would later become famous for. Her stories often focus on moments of disruption and frequently open rather abruptly dispensing with description and the introduction of characters.
By 1908 she had returned to London and to a rather more bohemian lifestyle. A passionate affair resulted in her becoming pregnant but instead of her lover she married an older man who she left the same evening with the marriage unconsummated. She was then to miscarry and be cut out of her mothers’ will (allegedly because of her lesbianism).
In 1911 she began a relationship with John Middleton Murry, a magazine editor, and although it was volatile it enabled her to write some of her best stories.
Mansfield's creative years were burdened with loneliness, illness, jealousy, and alienation which was reflected in her work with the bitter depiction of marital and family relationships of her middle-class characters. Her defining themes of New Zealand, childhood, adulthood, social class, class conflict, innocence, and experience often focused on trivial events and subtle changes in human behaviour.
During the First World War Mansfield contracted extra-pulmonary tuberculosis, which rendered any return or visit to New Zealand impossible and led to her death at the tender age of 34 on 9th January, 1923 in Fontainebleau, France.
Her stories provide a legacy far beyond her years but leave us wondering what she could have been capable of had she lived longer.