Penguin Little Black Classic No.72: Miss Brill

miss brill

MISS BRILL BY KATHERINE MANSFIELD

Three short stories here, all taken from The Garden Party and Other Stories. I found them all a little too nice and quaint for me in general, but could appreciate the beautiful flourishes and poignant lines. Mansfield is credited with revolutionising the English short story and is much admired for writing without the common constraints of plots and tidy endings which is evident just from these brief examples.

Marriage a La Mode is a neat story first published in 1921 about a woman’s “dull, Bourgeois” husband versus her new fashionable, bohemian friends. The final scene where Isabel reads aloud a love letter from him to her new affected pals is moving and elegantly written.

Miss Brill is a story of loneliness and rejection, of youth and age. Too much talk of fox furs and such like for me. Too prim, I couldn’t take to it. Although, again, another pleasing ending.

In The Stranger, Mr Hammond impatiently awaits his wife’s return by boat. After taking an age to come ashore, she finally admits that a fellow passenger, a strange man, had died in her arms the previous evening. This was the most readable of these stories but still left me with little ambition to tackle Mansfield’s other works.

SOUTHSEA BOOKWORM RATING: 5/10

Notes on the author – Katherine Mansfield:

  • Born 1888 Wellington, New Zealand. Died 1923 Fontainebleau, France
  • Prominent modernist writer
  • Friends with D.H Lawrence and Virginia Woolf
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