Kathleen on Katherine

Katherine Mansfield: The Story-Teller

It’s the first new biography of Mansfield for a quarter of a century – written using recently released material and published at a time when interest in Mansfield and her work is increasing throughout the world.

Kathleen Jones gives a vivid portrayal of her subject, correcting previous mis-interpretations of Mansfield’s illnesses and relationships, weaving a compelling drama from the detail. The story extends beyond Mansfield’s death in 1923 to include the life of her husband, John Middleton Murry, who inherited her unpublished work and – driven by guilt and grief – set out to create a literary legend from Mansfield’s remains. It was an obsession that consumed his life and ruined three subsequent marriages and the lives of his children.

It is clear from new material that Katherine Mansfield was not the ‘romantic, solitary, tragic heroine’ portrayed by her husband, but a much more complex individual who could be loyal and passionate, as well as outspoken and utterly ruthless. Virginia Woolf was jealous of her writing; Bertrand Russell admired her conversation. Mansfield was not afraid of transgressing moral boundaries, but had to live all her life with the consequences.

In this book, the story of Katherine Mansfield’s life as she recorded it in letters, journals and stories, and what John Middleton Murry made of it after her death, are told side by side, using material never before available to the biographer.

Acclaim for Katherine Mansfield: The Story-Teller:

Katherine Mansfield: The Story-Teller is a compelling narrative of a writer’s passion for her work … a fascinating portrait of Mansfield’s complex, secretive nature, her relationships and her struggle against the incurable disease which threatened to swamp her talent as it shortened her life. … It is a fine achievement.” Helen Dunmore, novelist, Booker Prize-winner

“I read it with huge enjoyment – I think it’s by far the best Katherine Mansfield biography yet.” Jacqueline Wilson, novelist, patron of the Katherine Mansfield Society
“A mass of new material unavailable to earlier biographers makes this new telling richly detailed and compelling. … a constant, delighting vividness is what one so predominantly is faced with as one reads her letters, stories, notebooks – the prose that carries a living pulse.” Professor Vincent O’Sullivan, Editor, The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield.

“It’s a marvellous work, reads like a novel, dares to take it’s own risks, and above all, has immense imaginative range in carrying on Mansfield’s life after death … the way Kathleen carries it on into the lives of those who follow is extraordinary.” Fiona Kidman, novelist, President of the NZ Book Council

Kathleen Jones spent several years in Africa and the Middle East – where she worked in English broadcasting – before returning home. Her published work includes radio journalism, articles for magazines and newspapers, short fiction and eleven books – a mixture of biography, general non-fiction and poetry. Her biographies include: A Passionate Sisterhood (Virago) – an account of the lives of the women who lived with the ‘lake poets’, which Sue Limb described as ‘a fascinating, marvellous, utterly absorbing book … the stuff your English teacher never told you’; Learning not to be First, a life of the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti (OUP), which was Doris Lessing’s ‘book of the year’, and a biography of Catherine Cookson (Time Warner).

Kathleen lives in Cumbria where she writes full time. She has taught creative writing in a number of colleges and universities and is currently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Lancaster University.

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