There are fourteen stories in this collection, and while there were a couple I couldn’t quite see the point of – the majority I found to be wonderful. The writing is really very beautiful, and the characterisation surprisingly deft considering how short some of these pieces are. The stories concern small incidents in the lives of the characters – highlighting their disappointments, naiveties and quiet angers.
Two of my favourite stories were the first story Prelude, and the title story Bliss. In Prelude a family move from town to a large house in the country - there are four adults and three children, nothing very much happens – but the setting and characterisation are just glorious. In the title story Bliss – a young woman is about to get a rude awakening from her perfect life. Then the way Mansfield ends this sharp little piece is just masterly, in complete contrast to the start.
“Although Bertha Young was thirty she still had moments like this when she wanted to run instead of walk, to take dancing steps on and off the pavement, to bowl a hoop, to throw something up in the air and catch it again, or to stand still and laugh at - nothing - at nothing, simply.
What can you do if you are thirty and, turning the corner of your own street, you are overcome, suddenly by a feeling of bliss - absolute bliss! - as though you'd suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late afternoon sun and it burned in your bosom, sending out a little shower of sparks into every particle, into every finger and toe?”
The little governess is another of the stories that will stay with me – an innocent young woman journeys by train to her new appointment, and meets a grandfatherly type of man who she naively fails to realise has other interests in her. I also rather loved the story Pictures, a sad little tale about a young woman contralto who can’t pay her rent and is trying to get a job as a singer or an actress. She and others like her dreaming of the big time, the realities of life coming much sharper.
This collection has really piqued my interest in Katherine Mansfield – so I’m sure that I will be reading more of her work at some point.