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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review: Mansfield Park

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , , ,
Mansfield Park
by Jane Austen
Classic Literature
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

Taken from the poverty of her parents' home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny's uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry's attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary's dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords' influence and finds herself more isolated than ever. A subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, Mansfield Park is one of Jane Austen's most profound works.

Review:

This book is a little strange for me.  In that I almost completely dislike all the characters in the story - there's not one I admire, or even really sympathize with and yet I found myself enjoying the narrative pretty thoroughly.  There's something interesting about the unimportant dramas of these characters.  And for the most part they feel unimportant because of how Austen subtly colors them in such a ridiculous light.  It's hard to take them seriously or care how they end up when Austen continues to highlight their flaws and foolish thoughts and actions.  Really that's how every one of these characters comes off - as foolish.  But there was something intriguing in reading about them.  I guess this is why Jane Austen is a master!

Since the drama is very character-driven, I'll talk about the characters first.  Fanny Price is the heroine, and the most admirable character in her way - if her reserve, her fragility and languor can be overlooked.  She does have a strong moral compass, which many of the characters in this book lacks, and that seems to send many of them down the wrong path - or at least they make some very painful mistakes.  I think reading how these mistakes come about is what makes the book so interesting - especially in trying to understand how manners and rules of etiquette are so important in their time.  It's interesting alone to read this book for the glimpse of the genteel life of Regency England.

The hero of the story - Edmund - is a mundane sort of hero, kind, but mostly unimaginative and serious.  I was never really caught up in the romance part of this story, which is just as well as Jane Austen wraps up that part really quickly.  And um, Edmund and Fanny are cousins.  First cousins.  That easily killed the romance for me.  I think Fanny and Edmund needed to get out more.  Especially Fanny.

The Crawfords are a fun pair though - definitely the bad seeds but so thoroughly charming and unheeding of their actions that I could almost root for them.  Almost.  I was hoping that Henry really could be reformed, but in the end I think it was important for the story that the Crawfords were true to themselves.  It was a little surprising and saddening how one of the Bertrams wind up in the end though; this family was not perfect but it seemed that everyone began with good intentions or high hopes, even if they did not always act properly, it was unfortunate that it didn't not work out for some in the end.

I easily slipped into the world of Mansfield Park and these characters even though I could not really like any of them, so that I think the merits of this book are as a historical character study.  There are other Austen novels more engaging and uplifting then this one, but the subtle drama of the characters' lives really carried my interest very well.

Fifth book read in the Classics Club Challenge
Also part of the 2014 Jane Austen Challenge

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25 comments:

  1. Oh, well this does seem intriguing! I was going to say I'm not sure about the characters but then changed my mind--you convinced me! I love JA so will read this one day or another FOR SURE! :)
    Lola @Seeing Night Reviews

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  2. Hahaha I kind of knew where this was going from the second I clicked over from Bloglovin... I feel like Mansfield Park is just kind of an odd duck out in the literary canon of Jane Austen. :) Glad you found a silver lining in it, though!

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  3. They're cousins? Aw geez, that kind of ruins the romance for me. I have yet to read this one, but I plan to in the future. I'm glad you like the novel despite not liking any of the characters. That's how I feel with every Fitzgerald novel. haha Lovely review, Charlene!

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  4. I have always hated Fanny and Edmund as a couple! So unlike Austen to make such a unlikable pair. I struggle with this book and find it hard to like. I agree the Crawford s are the most interesting aspect to the story.

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  5. Mansfield Park is definitely a mixed bag for me. As a Jane Austen fan, I almost feel obligated to find some love for it, but aside from Austen's lovely prose, I find the novel . . . meh. I'm glad you were able to enjoy this as a character study, despite the characters themselves not being easy to like. If I ever do read MP again, I'll try to keep that perspective in mind; I think I would be very likely to view the novel in a different light.

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  6. I've actually never read this book, but I have seen the 1999 movie which I know took several liberties with the story but I did enjoy it overall. The first cousin thing is the overall ick factor for me though, which is why I was never really interested in reading this book even though I love Jane Austen. I just can't let that go. I mean, I know that during that time those sort of relationship is the norm but I can't wrap my mind to it and accept. Lovely review Charlene!

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  7. This is the only Austen story that I have neither read nor seen an adaptation of yet! I plan to one day though! Cousin romance is a little weird... but times *were* different...

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  8. Not going to lie, I saw this post and blanched because well, you know I had to read this for school, lol. Since characters are THE thing for me in a book, I'm just nah. Glad to see your perspective on this book though! /throws my essays at you/ Lmao, just kidding! (But I passed the subject anyway!! XD)

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  9. I totally understand why this isn't a great read for you as an Austen fan - some of her other books are just so much more appealing! I would be interested to know if the new perspective will change your views on this book - I think not expecting to like it actually, helped me to appreciate it more. :)

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  10. Oh Northanger Abbey is definitely more fun than this - and the more recent adaptation of NA is one of my fave period dramas ever so I am so happy you are planning to read it first!

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  11. I remember seeing the 1999 film but I didn't remember too much of the story (I guess it didn't leave much of an impression) so I'm planning to see it again. I am curious to know how they could liven up the story for a movie! Yeah, I guess first cousins was okay back then - I was actually under the impression that maybe 2nd or 3rd cousins would be more the norm, so this was surprising to me! Not that it would have made the romance better!

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  12. Oh that is surprising! I mean, it is probably one of the ones that is often overlooked, but I'm more surprised that you haven't read or seen anything of it! Yes, times were very different back then - and so hard to find a man apparently! :D

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  13. LOL, well I'm sure this couldn't compare at all to Jane Eyre in the awesome department! :D But the characters in this are pretty unremarkable generally so it makes sense that they underwhelmed you! I'm glad you didn't let this book stop you from passing the class like a boss! :D

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  14. I have had Mansfield Park sitting on my table this week after taking a picture of classics in my house for Book Bloggers International and I am thinking that even though I have lots of review books to cover right now, I need to read it right now!

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  15. It's been a while since i have read this. I do remember enjoying it though. I have to admit... Austen's books do seem to blur as one as the years go by. I can't remember what happened in which one so I think that kind of reflects how similar the books are.

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  16. Oh perfect timing then! :) I think Austen is a nice break from books of today - because of the setting and the writing, so I think you should read it right now too. :)

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  17. Yes, I can already see that her books are pretty similar. The same sort of dramas seems to surround most of her characters. It's like she's writing variations on a theme. It's nice to read Austen, and I will be glad to say that I have read all of her books one day, but I think she will never be a favorite author of mine.

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  18. I also have Syrie James' Jane Austen's First Love up for review for next month. Do you like new Austenesque novels?

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  19. I don't get why these character's lives are so interesting either! I do love Jane Austen's writing style, so that's part of it, but there's something else there too, I think.

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  20. Just some magic in the time and setting I guess! And our human inclination to find human lives interesting? Whatever it is I am glad it helped me enjoy Mansfield Park! :)

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  21. Ohh, this does sound interesting! I'm actually quite keen to put it onto my immediate tbr, but I think I'll read Northanger Abbey before any other Austen I read this year, because I think it just seems really interesting and a little spooky (which makes it a good choice for me...!) and really peculiar. I hope I'll like it, but I will keep your review in mind and hope I get to reading this sometime in the rest of the year!

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  22. It's totally understandable not liking Fanny and Edmund! I really had no problem with their brother/sister relationship thing they had going, it really should have continued that way. I was really hoping that Henry would win out actually - even though he's so selfish, Fanny might have done him some good. Although I know that would never work in real life!

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  23. Yeah, it's really weird. You know it's tending towards them being together from the beginning but I kept hoping it wouldn't happen. :D I hope you will enjoy this one at least a little bit though! A Fitzgerald novel is the perfect comparison to this book!

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  24. It does seem to be the odd one - the romance especially is so lackluster! I haven't read all of Jane Austen yet, but it seems like the best is still to come!

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  25. I am glad you love JA because that will definitely help you get through this! The characters were pretty intriguing to me, so I hope you will enjoy it!

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