I found the first part of this book a bit hard to get into. Not only do all three of the main characters come across as unlikeable, but Lappin also seems to be cramming in background information about Mansfield in a way that feels forced, given the structure of the novel. This results in passages like this one:
Upon her return, [Katherine] would put an end to all that [Murry’s affairs], by marrying Murry, once her divorce from George Bowden came through at last. What a terrible mistake that had been: marrying Bowden on the spur of the moment, simply because he adored her and seemed so well-connected. Of course, that wasn’t the real reason she had let George rush her to the altar. The real reason had been the fatherless child in her womb, Garnet’s child, the baby she had lost later in Bavaria. And that had all been Mother’s fault. She would never have miscarried if Mother hadn’t sent her to that dreadful spa to get her away from Ida. (p. 12)This feels disjointed and I would imagine very confusing to someone who is unfamiliar with Mansfield’s history.
Luckily, once the stage is set, the narrative focuses on the novel’s present (1918-1923) and flows much more smoothly. Although I’m not familiar enough with Mansfield’s writing to judge whether Lappin was successful in reproducing her style, I certainly felt like I was getting a glimpse into Mansfield’s mind. Above all, Lappin captures Mansfield’s fierce desire to write despite all odds and at whatever cost—these were my favourite parts of the book. Here, for example, are some of (the fictionalized) Mansfield’s thoughts on writing:
Certainly there was nothing like it: to be divided always into two or more, a multitude of selves. To be the detached observer, sitting in a carriage, driving along the sea, clinging to the cold handle of the carriage door, smelling the tang of salt in the air, and at the very same instant to hang suspended in the silver flash of rain against a smoky sky, to be scattered in the foam blowing along the strand. . . . Passenger and driver, the little boy in a blue cape, nibbling strawberries at the roadside, the high-stepping horse and the roiling sea were all parts of herself. (p. 170)And here is (the fictionalized) Virginia Woolf describing her journal to Mansfield:
‘It’s like a madwoman’s dream, or like a deep drawer in an old desk where I collect shreds and scraps of my daily impressions which I later reassemble in obsessive experiments.’ (p. 154)Lappin writes with such compassion for her characters that I soon forgot that I had initially found them unlikeable (with the exception perhaps of Murry). As the end of the novel neared, I found myself almost hoping that it would end differently, that Mansfield would somehow be given more time.
Check out these sites for other reviews of Katherine’s Wish:
Absinthe Minded • Perigee: Publication for the Arts • Rain Taxi
Also visit Sheri’s blog for a guest post by the author:
Katherine’s Wish won the Gold Medal for Historical Fiction at the 2009 IPPY Awards as well as an honorable mention for the Eric Hoffer Award in 2009. It was also a finalist for the 2008 ForeWord Book of the Year Award.
Are you interested in reading this book? Author Linda Lappin has generously offered to send a copy of this novel to one of my readers in Canada, the U.S. or Europe. She has also offered to send a copy of her first novel, The Etruscan, to another reader. Come back tomorrow for all the details.
Thank you to Linda Lappin for sending me this book to review.
This is the eighth book I review for the New Authors Challenge.