The Garden Party: And Other Stories
How does one write eighteen masterful short story collections before one succumbs, at thirty-four years old, to tuberculosis? Katherine Mansfield managed to have a full life and to create many masterpieces. Her genius is such that long after one closes this book, one is still envisioning a young debutante with an orchid corsage at her wrist waiting for the first dance. The title story in this great collection deals with a wonderful garden party in the country in a manor up the hill from workers’ shanties. News of a worker’s death comes before the guests arrive. The young daughter feels that it is only right to cancel the party, even though all the meticulous preparations have been done. After the party, she takes a basket of leftover food to the grieving widow and is brought in to pay respects to the deceased.
In “The Daughters of the Late Colonel,” the two surviving sisters are still under the thumb of their recently deceased father. They are even afraid to enter his den because it was a place that was forbidden to them. They struggle under the domination of their petulant servant. Mansfield’s gift was describing the hesitation we all have when confronting life and the promise of freedom. This is highly recommended.