Book Review #4 — Mansfield Park by Jane AustenImage

Okay guys, got my goal done in time! Yay, confetti, fireworks, Nobel Peace Prize. This is a big deal guys! I came up with a project for me to do, and I completed the first leg of it, which is always the hardest. Okay, enough of me tooting my own horn, I know how annoying that is, to the book review!

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Mansfield Park is an overall enjoyable book about intrigue and romance during the Regency Period in England. Even though I am a huge Jane Austen fan, I’ve always avoided this book because of the little that I knew about it. The heroine was shy and awkward. She marries her cousin. Granted, I liked the novel better than expected, but I still don’t think it holds up next to the other books I’ve read for this blog or to the other Jane Austen novels. Why?

Fanny Price is a lovely, sweet, morally righteous, shy young woman. She’s always in the right opinion, no matter what, even if others do not usually recognize this. She’s looked over, forgotten, and generally derided by most of her company. The exception from this, of course, is her cousin Edmund. Edmund is always there for her, notices her, and shares correct opinions about events and people.

What I like about Fanny is that she’s out of place. Her mother married imprudently, so Fanny and her siblings grew up in relative poverty until her rich uncle Sir Thomas and her Aunt Norris took her away to grow up in the fabulous Mansfield Park, the residence of the Bertrams. Fanny does not fit in in this world at first, she is quiet and shy where everyone wants her to be lively and witty.

I do not like characters like Fanny, ones that the author obviously adores. Fanny does nothing wrong, incorrect, rude, or even mean spirited throughout the entire novel. She is loveliness personified, and it is everyone else’s fault for not noticing her, not her own. She is also boring, insipid, and barely speaks. Not that this makes her a horrible person, it just makes her a kind of boring heroine, especially when compared to Emma Woodhouse, Lizzie Bennett, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Anne Elliot, and even Catherine Morland. Mary Crawford is more like a Jane Austen heroine, a comment I’m sure others have made. She is witty and fun, and does not have entirely correct opinions. But somehow in this novel she is cast as the villain, alas!

Mansfield Park is an interesting Jane Austen novel, in that it’s even more scandalous than the others. Other Jane Austen novels including eloping, men and women living together when unmarried, and children out of wedlock. In Mansfield Park a woman who is married runs away with a man who is not her husband, lives with him in sin, divorces her husband, then leaves the country in shame. What drama!

In my mind, Fanny caused all of this drama. When Henry fell in love with her and began pursuing her, she was unable to give up her preconceived notions about him based on his actions towards Maria. While this is understandable, the way she treated him pretty much drove him towards what he did with Maria. Not going to lie, I was kind of rooting for Fanny and Henry while knowing she would end up with Edmund. Henry was so much more interesting! A former rake and unrooted gentleman falling for a lovely, principled young woman! The story of him reforming in his love for her and the potential for her to better him and fall in love with him as well in marriage would have been compelling, instead we are taught that our preconceived notions about people are right and we should never give anyone chances. Marry your cousin, he’s always been nice to you and there are literally no other young men that you know!

My favorite character was probably Sir Thomas, which is probably an odd choice. At first, he is the intimidating uncle and step father figure who is always strict with his children and inspired fear in all. After visiting Antigua (and apparently owning slaves, was I the only one who did not pick up on that subtext?) he comes back to Mansfield Park a man more inclined to love his family. He opens his arms to Fanny, who he finds out he gets along with well and holds many similar opinions. The development of Sir Thomas and Fanny’s relationship is one of my favorites in the book. I love how Sir Thomas is portrayed as a multi faceted character, not just an intimidating uncle as he is shown in the beginning. As the novel goes on, he realizes that Fanny is a superior creature and he supports her marriage to Edmund, despite being against the idea when Fanny comes to live with them.

Another character I have to mention is Mrs. Norris. Goodness what a deplorable but realistic character. She seems obsessed with the idea of running Mansfield Park and being close to Sir Thomas, you’d think she’d want to switch places with her sister Lady Bertram. Her devotion to Maria and Julia and neglect of Fanny ends up the ruin of the former and the making of the latter.

Despite all appearances, I actually did enjoy this book. It is well written with the wit and fun of any Jane Austen novel. But as I am such a fan of her other work, I can’t help but compare this unfavorably to her other novels.

Favorite Scene: This scene isn’t the most interesting, but it just warmed my heart. I loved it when Sir Thomas returned from Antigua, and Fanny hung back so he could be with his nuclear family. Then he called out for her, calling her “dear” and “sweet,” and gave her a hug. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship indeed. Then everything spun out of control when he found out about the acting, but it was a lovely return before that.

Book # 5: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

I can now take things at a relatively slow pace. I’m still studying abroad, so it might take me a while to finish this book, or I might not even start it until I get back! But four books in a year is a leisurely pace (rest assured, I also read other books).

I’m actually really excited for this one, I love Agatha Christie and murder mysteries! It should be a good change of pace from the dreary Mansfield ParkI know very little about it, other than it’s a murder mystery, has to do with a train, and is a supposedly fun read!

Onward!

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