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I think this brings me to the end of Jane Austen's novels. It is a peculiar case: some very interesting characters and family dynamics, with a wealth of layered detail, but I found the basic social message of the book rather uncongenial. Austen's heroine is Fanny Price, informally adopted by her rich uncle and aunt; Fanny is generally passive and when she expresses an opinion tends towards priggishness (with the author's full approval); the stable conservative world of Mansfield Park is under threat from the cosmopolitan horrors of London, but Fanny supports the resistance. Most of the climactic events take place off-screen in the last few chapters, which is a bit unsatisfying. (Also the kind rich uncle clearly has made his money thanks to slavery.) The book does have its points of interest, but I would advise anyone thinking of casual dabbling in Austen to stick to Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion.

Top LibraryThing Unsuggestion: On Intelligence, by Jeff Hawkins


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 20th, 2010 08:15 am (UTC)
There's a good adaptation: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0178737/ which gets round some of these issues and the generally unsympathetic (to modern audiences) lead character very cleverly.
Feb. 20th, 2010 08:24 am (UTC)
Mansfield Park with Mummies improves the book considerably. The supernatural element is worked in smoothly and gives Fanny and Edmund something to focus on other than soap opera. With fresh, well, new, well, er non-Austen, challenges, Fanny can be more active.

Feb. 20th, 2010 08:33 am (UTC)
I think she wrote it on finding herself in a spotlight of public opinion, to present herself as a 'good person'. Having said that, there is some brilliant stuff in there, and Mrs Norris is a really nasty piece of work. In fact the knives really come out.
Feb. 20th, 2010 10:47 am (UTC)
It's not my favourite Austen (see icon), but it's the one I reread most often, and IMHO it's her best. I think it's marvellously constructed and I think Austen seriously examines her own principles (not to mention the cruelties that the unguarded use of her own talent can lead her into her). I think it's less a defence of the landed gentry than perhaps it first appears: Sir Thomas fails pretty badly as a father and it's the enterprising children of his sister-in-law who become the achievement and the satisfaction of his life, rather than his own expensively educated children.

I'm going to put in a good word for Fanny, who I think sticks to her principles under overbearing pressure, and ultimately gets her own way. Her anxiety and quiet distress are gently and sympathetically drawn. She is quietly and patiently heroic, under great duress. Why dislike Fanny when the monstrous Mrs Norris is there? A tyrant if ever there was. Yet Fanny wins. By the end of the book she has thoroughly conquered Sir Thomas, married the love of her life, and has become the heart of Mansfield Park.

I'm not in any way arguing that Mansfield Park is a revolutionary book, but I think Austen does a very interesting thing in it, which is to set out her principles, and then examine how and where they fall down. I find it endlessly rewarding.
Feb. 20th, 2010 01:18 pm (UTC)
John Sutherland in one of his books about mysteries in classic fiction (where mystery is taken to mean subtexty things that are not dealt with in the main narrative) has a really interesting chapter on Mansfield Park, theoretically about trying to figure out when it was written but all about Sir Thomas's money and it's sources and whether the book was actually a giant take that against the landed gentry and pro the middle classes, and whether this had anything to do with Austen's religious leanings because she belonged to a group that was pro-abolition.
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