Katherine’s Wish

Written by Linda Lappin
Review by Tess Allegra

Bandol, France, 1918. A frail young woman boards a military train, coughing discreetly into her handkerchief. The throng of war-weary soldiers is unaware she is a famous English author traveling south to fight the ravages of tuberculosis. Indeed, she tells them a story to justify traveling alone: she is going to meet her “wounded husband.”

Katherine Mansfield was very good with stories, and this one satisfies, to her relief. She misses her real husband, John Middleton Murry, at home in England carrying on with his work as an esteemed literary critic. Unaware how ill and lonely she would be, he forwards her books to be read and reviewed during her convalescence. Murry sees their relationship as the merging of two great minds with a combined genius that would assure them a place in history. It became apparent that her health was in danger and sending her to France for a “cure” removed him from any bother, not being a man to stop working to tend a sick wife.

Katherine was a most determined writer, defying mercurial comments by former friend D. H. Lawrence (who despised her “ill health”) and the disdain of the social coterie of Lady Ottoline, a woman who fêted the usual literary suspects known as the Bloomsberries. For a time, Virginia Woolf became Katherine’s friend, albeit reservedly, as the two discussed their mutual passion for writing.

Everyone involved in Katherine’s life, including her underappreciated friend and supplicant Ida Baker, who clung to serving her genius despite rebuffs, is presented as they may have appeared in her personal diary. Capturing the latter part of Katherine’s life and world, the author brings vivid life to this novel, which reads like a literary biography of Katherine Mansfield and her contemporaries.