Imaginary Getaways May 9, 2013

At the Bay (1922)

Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield

“If I could, I would go to the beach in Katherine Mansfield’s short story “At the Bay.” It is summer in New Zealand around the turn of the 20th century. The cottages are nothing, the dressing tables made from packing cases fitted with skirts. But you do not really want to stay inside, starting from first light, when “a heavy dew had fallen. The grass was blue. Big drops hung on the bushes, and just did not fall; the silvery, fluffy toi-toi was limp on its long stalks … Ah-Aah! sounded the sleepy sea.”

At 11 a.m., I want to join the women and children who take over the beach, throwing off their clothes and stays to go swimming. The water is warm, “that marvellous transparent blue, flecked with silver.” The sand at the bottom looks sunny, so you can kick your toes and raise “a little puff of gold-dust.” In tidal pools in rocks nearby, a sea forest waves: “pink thread-like trees, velvet anemones, and orange berry-spotted weeds.” It is a child’s forest. This is the beach Mansfield remembers from her childhood, and maybe that is where I really want to go, back to a child’s endless, drowsy summer….”

– Lesley Krueger


Bronwyn Drainie asked 10 Canadian writers to name an imaginary place from a favorite piece of literature where they would like to spend their summer vacations. I chose Katherine Mansfield’s New Zealand. You can check out choices from Bronwyn, Natalie Zemon Davis, Alastair MacLeod, Donna Bailey Nurse, Robert Charles Wilson, Kyo Maclear, Jessica Grant, Patrick Watson and Antanas Sileika here: