Katherine Mansfield, the New Zealand writer whose stunning career was cut short by tuberculosis, was "a woman with as many names as she had masks, as many roles as she had selves, most--perhaps all of them--false." Credited with revolutionizing the short story in English, yet often relegated to the fringes of the literary world, Katherine Mansfield was a contemporary of Virginia Woolf, who once said, famously, "She is the only writer I have ever been jealous of".
In 1988, shortly before the centenary of Mansfield's birth, Monty, a New Zealand scholar, impulsively steals a letter intended for his writer-father, who has devoted his own life to the pursuit of Katherine Mansfield's. Intrigued by the letter's offer of new Mansfield material, and determined to upstage his emotionally distant, awkward father, Monty travels to Chicago and embarks on an odyssey to decode a seemingly minor love affair of Katherine's youth.
Thieves is a masterful re-imagining of her brief but extraordinary life, unfolding how the writer's fierce ambition and forceful presence collided with the more ordinary possibilities of those who loved and admired her. Central to her story is the figure of Garnet Trowell, a violinist and father to Katherine's only--miscarried--child. It was to Garnet, from whom she parted when they were both just twenty, that Katherine wrote a series of passionate letters that he kept for the rest of his life. These letters, stolen after Garnet's death, reveal to Monty not only a dramatically new reading of Katherine's life and character, but also an understanding of the perilous shape his own life has assumed.
Arcing gracefully from New Zealand to England, Europe and finally Chicago and Windsor, Ontario, Thieves is at once a brilliant mystery, an absorbing love story and a haunting exploration of what makes us whole and human.