DEAR MISS MANSFIELD: A Tribute to Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp by Witi Ihimaera

DEAR MISS MANSFIELD: A Tribute to Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp

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A century after Mansfield's birth, fellow New Zealander Ihimaera has written a collection of short stories that explore her themes, as well as illuminate them from his own Maori heritage and contemporary experience. The first, longest, and perhaps best story, ""Maata,"" explores Mansfield's close friendship with a Maori woman, whom she asked to complete a novel Mansfield herself had written about their relationship as young women in New Zealand and England. Fragments of the novel do exist, and the protagonist of the story, Maori journalist, makes the search for Maata and the incomplete novel his personal quest--a quest that becomes as much a search for his own Maori roots as a piece of literary detection. Most of the stories have central characters--Maoris like Tama in ""The Halycon Summer"" and Tutal Wharepapa in ""His First Ball""--who are torn between the old Maori ways and the dominant Pakeha--European--culture. In such pieces and others like it, Ihimaera poignantly describes this inevitable and unresolvable clash, though there is a tendency for his Maori characters to be too noble, too wise, and--probably reflecting contemporary fashion--too environmentally conscious. The other stories are quiet, domestic tales in which Maori and European alike observe the rest of the world from the outside, with characters like the children in the affecting ""This Life is Weary"" who spend their Saturdays, hidden in the shrubs, watching the activities of the fortunate family that lives in ""The Big House."" Though some stories have echoes of Mansfield's lyricism and feel for atmosphere, the collection is uneven in execution, ranging from the very good to the barely mediocre.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Viking