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Mansfield, Katherine

zealand father ‘the hopes

(NZ, 1888–1923)

Mansfield (whose full name was Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp) moved to Europe from New Zealand when she was 20, and after living in England and Germany was diagnosed with tuberculosis while still in her twenties, and spent her last few years travelling in search of a cure. Her short stories are among the most perfect in English; typically, she will take one incident in the life of a character, and reveal through that the hopes and fears and inner sense of a whole lifetime. In ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’ (The Garden Party, 1922) two spinster sisters are left bewildered and aimless by the death of their tyrannical father, whose personality still dominates his room to the extent that they are terrified to touch his possessions. Their lives have been ‘looking after father, and at the same time keeping out of father's way. But now?’ The fearful confinement of their lives is reflected in their anxious attempts to placate the bullying maid. In ‘The Life of Ma Parker’ an old woman cleans for a literary gentleman, on the day after her beloved grandson's funeral; the man's callous snobbery—‘these people set such store by funerals’—is unfelt by Ma Parker, who finds herself at the bitter pass of needing to cry and having nowhere in the world to do it. ‘The Woman at the Store’ (Something Childish and Other Stories, 1924) is set in New Zealand, and in the desolate country store conjures up a nightmare world of isolation, ruined hopes, and terrible revenge.

Anton Chekhov, Raymond Carver, Christina Stead. See AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND, SHORT STORIES  JR

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