by Jane Austen
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.
Also part of the 2014 Jane Austen Challenge