Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)

An Indiscreet Journey

Another  woman going to meet a lover, but a very different story to Claire Keegan’s Antarctica chosen yesterday.  Modernist in style and seemingly loose in its structure, we are given a glimpse into the narrator’s world as she journeys by train to the front line in First World War France to meet The Little Colonel, who we assume is her lover (Mansfield herself made  a similar visit). Knowing this, there is a sense that Mansfield is committing her motorise to paper and the story is no worse for that. The detail feels authentic, even without the spattering of French, and we are left wanting to sip first whisky and then  mirabelle to decide for ourselves which is the better taste.

I especially like the passage where the old lady who sits opposite the narrator on the train reads a letter

‘In her fat hands, adorned with a wedding ring and two mourning rings, she held a letter. Slowly, slowly she sipped a sentence and then looked up and out of the window, her lips trembling a little, and then another sentence, and again the old face turned to the light, tasting it ….’

I read this story in the Katherine Mansfield Selected Stories, Oxford World’s Classics, 2002.

Alternatively you can access it on-line here

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