The Garden Party And Other Stories“ is a 1922 collection of fifteen short stories by author Katherine Mansfield. As with “In a German Pension”, the majority of the stories are loosely linked to each other and feature some of her major topics, such as death, childhood, feminism, loneliness,… - it does help to undergo some minor research into the author to be able to delve deeper into her storytelling. In general, the stories are easy to be understood even without further background, you will often find a slightly ironic undertone (again, as with “In a German Pension”) and often some inherent melancholy and sadness. The "link" is in the setting around Crescent Bay (as was the Pension for "In a German Pension"), so, again, yet another book of short stories that might be liked even by readers who normally rather prefer novels.
I find Mansfield's style of melancholy best displayed in “The young girl“ where the first person narrator, of course a woman, is with Mrs Raddick, her 12-year-old son Hennie and the 17-year old daughter. The mother is in for gambling, so the narrator entertains the children. While Hennie is enthusiastic about eating pastries and ice cream, his sister is all ill at ease and undecided, in between. When after the return of the group from the café room, the mother is nowhere at the casino where she said she would be waiting, the girl feels noticeably humiliated and at odds. The story is all about atmosphere and hints, there really is no explicit saying that the girl disapproves of her mother’s behaviour – it is all in her reaction pos. 1321 “…her cheeks crimsoned, her eyes grew dark – for a moment I thought she was going to cry. … ‘I’m always waiting – in all kinds of places…‘ “
You will hardly find any text which so brilliantly subtle depicts loneliness, unrequited love from daughter to mother, being torn in between childhood and adulthood, hurt.
You will also find third-person narrated stories such a „Miss Brill“ – this story is all about comparisons, that of Miss brill to the fur, and of her emotions to the orchestra’s performance. So, again, you have rejection, loneliness, young towards old.
After “In a German Pension” in 1911 and “Bliss” in 1920, this is the third collection of her to be published. Although she is being often considered to be New Zealand’s most famous writer, she permanently lived in Europe after 1908 (information taken from the articles on her and the book in Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katherine_Mansfield , the article on the book is rather a stub https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Garden_Party_(short_story_collection) ). She is considered to be a modernist author, in terms of belonging to those who after WW1 and industrialization believed in a need to go away from traditional forms.
From the point of view of reading texts for analysis, the texts are rather straight - less hidden meanings and less to say about the author's background than in, say, Kafka. But of course, you DO get to feel which kind of issues and topics Mansfield has. I enjoy the style of hers, especially the often sarcastic undertone, but I simply liked "In a German Pension" better. I reckon it is because those early texts of hers still have her practicing - and that was way more fun to read in that well known German setting from her outsider's point of view.