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The Garden Party and Other Stories


The Garden Party and Other Stories


“Is mother right? Am I being extravagant? Just for a moment she had another glimpse of that poor woman and those little children, and the body being carried into the house. But it all seemed blurred, unreal, like a picture in the newspaper…”

In The Garden Party, an upper middle-class family in New Zealand at the beginning of the past century is giving a party. The air is full of happy bustle; of affluence and few financial restraints: the delivery of cream puffs, the setting up of a marquee on the lawn.

Suddenly one of the daughters, young Laura Sheridan, a girl with some hints of sexual awakening and a budding social conscience learns that a young workman has been killed nearby, leaving a wife and five children. Death has come whispering into Laura's perfect Eden, and her reaction to it is both elusive and surprising.

The scene is told as an exchange between Laura, the youngest daughter of the family, and a workman, from Laura's distinctive point of view.

The words of horror, pity, and happiness that alternate and blend on that one day is as delicately fine a picture of poignant emotion as is to be found anywhere today.

Many of Mansfield's short stories feature young women on the brink of adulthood facing, for the first time, the realities of their limited lives: love is a trap; childbearing is another; death can be "simply marvelous."

Mansfield died in 1923 of tuberculosis at the age of 34, leaving behind a body of work as bold, unconventional, and modern as she was.

KATHERINE MANSFIELD (1888–1923) was a prominent modernist writer of short fiction. Her stories often focus on moments of disturbance and frequently open abruptly. Among her most well known works are The Garden Party, The Daughters of the Late Colonel, and Bliss, and Other Stories, a collection of stories that captures with accuracy those emotionally-charged moments when an individual stands most revealed. Tragically, Mansfield contracted tuberculosis, which led to her death at age 34.

“I was jealous of her writing—the only writing I have ever been jealous of…”

-Virginia Woolf


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