By C K Stead
I would like to apologise for the amount of time it has taken to write this review. I finished the book nearly two weeks ago, and have been too knackered to really write anything. What I did write is boring … OK, this review may not be any more riveting, but I feel a lot more comfortable. So, as they say … on with the show!
This novel follows Katherine Mansfield through three years of her life. It is WWI. We read about her life, her loves, the war, and her of course, her writing. And it’s a who’s who of the Bloomsbury crew. Mansfield was friends with or mixed with many of the great writers and thinkers of the time, including D H Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, Bertrand Russell, and of course, John Middleton Murry (Jack).
Mansfield has already enjoyed some success as a writer, and throughout this novel is finding a new voice based on her childhood memories.
I read this novel because I like C K Stead, and the review I read interested me. I didn’t really have an overwhelming interest in Katherine Mansfield, and haven’t read anything of hers since school (so not that long ago!!!). I always found Mansfield a bit smug. Sure, I’ve been to the birth place, which is a lovely little museum and well worth visiting if you are in Wellington. My interest was more in the house, and especially the kitchen (I love to see how people did things).
C K Stead is an economical writer. What I mean by that is, his language is clear, crisp, and evocative. He is not overly wordy. Now, I now that this doesn’t seem much like praise … for me it is. Modern language used well to give the audience the feeling of “being there” – i.e. lose themselves in the novel. That doesn’t sounds like much of a praise, but it is.
When I started reading this novel I didn’t quite get into the groove. After some of denser novels I have read recently, it felt too light. This feeling soon passed, however.
After reading this novel, I realise my impression of Katherine Mansfield has been based on the views of people who either didnt’ like her or didn’t get her. Rather than being smug, Stead’s Mansfield is intelligent, witty, ahead of her time. I now want to read Mansfield. I now want to read more from the writers of the time. I must admit I haven’t read much from writers of this time, except for Virginia Woolf.
So yeah, I did like this novel. It was easy to read, and peaked my interest in Mansfield.
Feel free to disagree!