Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Book Review: Mansfield Park

If I haven't mentioned it by now, you should know that I love Jane Austen. I have not "known" her long (just since this past summer), but since then, I think of her and her books as dear friends. Mansfield Park is the fourth Austen book that I have read, and like the other three, I couldn't put it down.

Mansfield Park tells the story of Fanny Price. At the young and still impressionable age of ten, Fanny was invited to live in the country with her aunt and uncle Bertram. A mother, especially one so acquainted with the hardships of humble circumstances, could not deny, nor allow her daughter to reject the possibilities that would come available to her as a resident of Mansfield Park. And so, with fear and sorrow, Fanny went. Over time, however Fanny grew to love her new home and was not unaware of the generosity afforded to her, nor was she given opportunity to forget it. For much of her young life, she was not loved, she was not thought of or considered, except for when she might be found useful to a more legitimate member of the household. Her whole childhood would have been a terrible misery had not it been for the friendship she found in her dear cousin Edmund. He alone knew the tenderness and pureness of her heart. He alone was her defender in a home that distinguished no value in her except for what their resources had provided.

Austen's plot thickens as Fanny finds herself fervently pursued by a young and attractive Henry Crawford. Henry's affections would have been readily received by many a young lady out in society, but Fanny was not so easily won. She was a girl of strong convictions and her steady resolve made her suspect to the talents of charm and money. Not only did Mr. Crawford have the stronghold of Fanny's integrity to overcome, but also the fact that her heart was secretly reserved for another.

As I made my way through the novel, I grew to love Fanny Price. I confess she did annoy me at times, moments when she seemed ridiculously fragile or almost "to good to be true." But in the times that Fanny was alone with her true thoughts, I found her jealousy and judgment and suspiciousness refreshing, and I was all the more protective of her.

In fear of this review being all sugary goodness, I will say a couple things: One, I feel that the ending was rushed. The plot thickens and thickens, and then, practically in a chapter, it is resolved. Austen is so descriptive, so thorough in her assessment of the character's emotions, but in the last chapter, it would seem that there was paper enough for facts, and facts alone. I was a little taken back. And two, I think the ending of Mansfield Park leaves the modern reader a bit conflicted. One one hand you feel that all is as it should be, and on the other hand, you're wondering why you're delighted by the other hand.

My final word: Read It! Don't see the movie!
I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Catherine Haskew said...

Great job on th book review Steph! I concur with your thoughts on the book. My one criticism of the writing is why as the reader did I find myself rooting for two cousins to fall in love...any one esle think thats weird? Granted that wasn't an uncommon happening during that time, but still that's gross! Despite that I LOVED the book, and can't wait to read another Austen book!!

Erin said...

I, too, was highly annoyed at the emotionless ending especially after the relentless descriptions of every other happening! I can only assume that the ending is not the reason she wanted us to read the book.

Cynthia said...

Ok - now that you have read the book and watched the movie - thoughts on the movie and its correlation to the book?

Steph said...

Cynthia, I am sorry to say that I hated the movie! I think you will find that the book takes a much lighter tone in many areas - the slave trade issue, Mary's sexuality, the harshness of the father, Edmund and Fanny's relationship (before the ending) and so on. All of these things...ok, it's Hollywood, I get it...but what I found to be quite unforgivable is how they changed Fanny's character. She IS the novel. She, under all that scrutiny and neglect, remains humble, never talking back (as she started to do towards the end of the movie), always trying to remember their kindness, save Aunt Norris. AND, they completely left out her brother William, who is crucial to the story. How can they do that? Anyways, so those are my beefs. I was pretty mad after I watched it...guess some frustration still lingers :) But you should definitely read it. I can see why you would be nervous about the slave trade issue, and there is nothing in the book that describes or even infers to such atrocities.

Cynthia said...

Thanks Steph! I will definitely read the book now!