Drawing on new or previously overlooked evidence, Tomalin--author of solid biographies of Shelley and Mary...

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KATHERINE MANSFIELD: A Secret Life

Drawing on new or previously overlooked evidence, Tomalin--author of solid biographies of Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft--attempts in this frankly engaging biography to shed light on areas of Mansfield's life underemphasized in studies by Jeffrey Myers (1978) and Antony Alpers (1980). Tomalin re-examines Mansfield in light of her relationship to D.H. Lawrence, a new trove of Mansfield and Lawrence letters, and most importantly, Mansfield's medical record. In 1903, Mansfield, the daughter of a prosperous New Zealand businessman, fled her colonial setting for London, and by the time of her early death in 1923 had established herself as a major short-story writer on familiar terms with the Bloomsbury group and a close associate of D.H. Lawrence. The overall plot of Mansfield's career is familiar territory, but Tomalin views a series of medical facts as decisive in the course of Mansfield's short life: this is the strength of her biography. A pregnancy in 1908 led Mansfield into a hasty marriage, which in turn led her to a German spa; her stay there brought her into contact with a smooth-tongued translator, Floryan Sobieniowski, whom Tomalin cites as the source of the gonorrhea that destroyed Mansfield's health and hastened her death. Also, Sobieniowski is cited as having first introduced Mansfield to the works of Chekhov, a crucial influence. But it's also now clear that, in spite of her individual achievement, Mansfield plagiarized an obscure Chekhov story early in her career; and though she and her husband, critic John Middleton Murry, succeeded in suppressing the embarrassment, they didn't prevent Sobieniowski from blackmailing Murry for money and recommendations. Solid, wholly absorbing work with 35 black-and-white photographs.

Pub Date: March 15, 1988

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1988