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All Sorts of Lives

Published to celebrate Katherine Mansfield's centenary, this is a compact but comprehensive new portrait of her life, work, relevance and wonderfully inspiring personality

Restless outsider, masher-up of form and convention, Katherine Mansfield's short but dazzling career was characterised by struggle, insecurity and sacrifice - alongside a glorious, relentless creative drive and openness.

She was the only writer Virginia Woolf admitted being jealous of, yet by the 1950s was so undervalued that Elizabeth Bowen was moved to ask, 'Where is she - our missing contemporary?' Now, looking back over the hundred years since her death, it is evident how vital Mansfield was to the Modernist movement and how strikingly relevant she is today, helping us to see differently, to savour and to notice things.

In this dynamic and perceptive study, Claire Harman takes a fresh look at Mansfield's life and achievements side by side, through the form she did so much to revolutionise: the short story. Exploring ten pivotal works, we watch how Mansfield's desire to grow as a writer pushed her art into unknown territory, and how illness sharpened her extraordinary vitality: 'Would you not like to try all sorts of lives - one is so very small.'

Inventive, intimate and informative, All Sorts of Lives is the perfect introduction for those who aren't familiar with Mansfield's work and, for those who are, it offers a new way of viewing and celebrating her and her legacy.


"What a gift to the biographer, this life of adventure and sickness and sex and celebrity - and that's before you start on Mansfield as a leading modernist . . . It's hard to imagine a more compelling advocate for Mansfield's fiction, or a better introduction to it . . . brilliant." - Claire Lowdon, Sunday Times

"Harman's book does that thing that all good literary biographies do. It sends us straight back into the delicate, exhilarating, risking world of Mansfield's fiction." - Kirsty Gunn, The Times Literary Supplement

"A wonderful book to mark the centenary of Mansfield's death . . . [her] clever insistence on placing the life and work side by side allows her to give brief but powerful accounts of Mansfield's relations with other writers." - Ruth Scurr, Spectator

"A kind of masterclass on the short story, taking the ideal practitioner as its focus . . . a valuable reminder of why - a hundred years after her death - we should still be reading and marvelling at Katherine Mansfield's stories." - Sarah Watling, Daily Telegraph

"A worthy addition to the corpus of Mansfield interpretation . . . Like all the best writer biographies, All Sorts of Lives makes you reach again for the works." - Catherine Taylor, Financial Times

"Step aside, Virginia Woolf - it was Katherine Mansfield who ushered in the modern age." - Frances Wilson, Daily Telegraph

"An excellent, sensitively written introduction." - Miranda Seymour, The Times

"What a searching, incisive and compulsive book. A lesson in how to read and connect and understand, it achieves a beautiful synthesis between Mansfield's stories, her life and our apprehension of both these things." - Sunjeev Sahota

“All Sorts of Lives is a beautiful, fastidiously researched and fascinating exploration of Mansfield's life and work. This is great as an introduction to an unjustly neglected author and a joy for those of us who already love her writing.” A. L. Kennedy

“This biography, graced by Harmans deep understanding as a reader, allows the work and the life to unfold side by side, a pairing designed for maximum impact.” Lyndall Gordon, The New Statesman

“Consistently clear-eyed and critically astute” Vincent O’Sullivan, Newsroom

Agent: Zoë Waldie
Other Claire Harman Titles