Katherine Mansfield’s Bliss is pure bliss
By biconews On 29 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Ilona Meyer

Seldom will I be able to say this without sounding like a pompous tart, so let me say it once and say it clearly: Bliss is what this review is all about. Now the reason I can pull off such a statement is because Bliss is the title of an absolutely mesmerising novella written by New Zealander Katherine Mansfield, on which I am writing today’s review.

For those of you who have been scared away by the atrocious length of the books I usually recommend (i.e. not any more than 150 pages) here is your chance to put my advice to the test. The worst that can happen is that you will have read - more or less - thirty pages. Even if you don’t appreciate those pages, at least you will be able to say that yes, you know of one woman writer from New Zealand (which is always a useful thing). And the best that can happen is that you’ll like it so much that you’ll just have to read her other short stories held in whatever edition you’ve been reading from.

Back to Bliss, this is the story of an afternoon and evening in the life of a woman named Bertha. During this time everything changes, and stays the same. Bertha is a well-to-do Londoner a la Mrs. Dalloway, who, like her, is preparing for a party at her house that evening.

That day, which was supposed to be just like any other, is different: she feels an uncontrollable bliss, which taints all of her activities, from arranging the fruit she has bought into a bowl, to feeling an strange bond with Pearl Fulton (her latest find). That evening at the party her life

will change, and yet she will realise her strength, which is contained in her capacity to feel and embody bliss.

Mansfield expresses this through the smallest details, and a most striking metaphor of Bertha as a gleaming silver pear tree. In her journals, Mansfield wrote that she desired to be as limpid as crystal, so that the world could shine through her: I believe that this small novella is the perfect example of her succeeding in her ambition.

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