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Jane Austen – Mansfield Park

May 7, 2012

46. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (1814)

Read By: Flo Gibson
Length: 16h 01m (480 pages)

Genre: Classic, Romance (I guess?)

Started: 13 April 2012
Finished: 23 April 2012

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Last one of Austen’s novels that I hadn’t read.

Hate to break it to
you, but you, Fanny Price, are
no Lizzie Bennett.

Summary: When Fanny Price was a child, she was sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle Bertram, who were much better off than Fanny’s own parents, and could better afford the care of an additional child. But Fanny is never truly part of the family; constantly reminded how fortunate she is to be taken in by her relations, and constantly compared to her cousins, and without the self-possession or self-confidence to change her position, her only ally is her cousin Edmund. But even as she falls for him, he falls for a friend of the family, and if Fanny can’t bring herself to speak her mind, she is in danger of finding herself married to a man she cannot love as she loves Edmund.

Review: This is the last of Austen’s main books that I’ve read, and I’m afraid to say, it’s by far my least favorite. Fanny is just such a wet rag, incapable of doing or saying anything to promote her own happiness, that I had a hard time caring about that happiness myself. I mean, not that I was rooting for her to be unhappy or anything, but if you’re not doing anything to help yourself, I don’t have much sympathy for the “circumstances are conspiring against me!” kind of argument. I want my protagonists to have a little more spirit (or at least a little spirit, period).

The one time that Fanny does have an opinion that she’s willing to express – namely, that she doesn’t want to marry Mr. Crawford – we’re treated to several chapters of what seems like every other character trying to convince her that she’s wrong, that she does want to marry him, and that she owes it to him to love him just because he’s decided he loves her. It’s gross, and it soured me not only on Fanny, but on most of the other characters as well. Granted, most of them were not particularly likable to begin with, but even Edmund comes off as smug and willfully oblivious to the feelings of everyone around him, even Fanny who he’s “molded” to think in a way that’s acceptable to him. It made the inevitable ending, in which everyone gets their just desserts, including Edmund’s extremely abrupt change of heart with regards to Fanny’s suitability as a romantic partner, less than satisfying.

I’m sure that, if I were reading Mansfield Park on a deeper, more critical level, there’s plenty of sharp satire and social commentary going on in. But since I am just reading for fun, and the main plot could be boiled down to “poor cousin is taken in by rich family and is bullied and treated badly for almost the entire book, and is too weak-willed to say or do anything about it”, it wasn’t something that I particularly got into. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Oooooh, I hate to say it for something that’s as much of a classic as Austen, but: pass. Or at least pass until you’ve run out of Austen’s better, more engaging books.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Becky’s Book Reviews, The Literary Omnivore, A Striped Armchair, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: About thirty years ago, Miss Maria Ward of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2012 11:31 am

    I didn’t hate this book, but it’s my least favorite Austen as well. However, once I finish Emma and am done with all of her novels, I’ll probably revisit it again and see if my opinion has changed since I first read it years ago.

    • May 14, 2012 9:39 am

      Anna – I might try again at some point in the future, but I think it’d be out of a sense of intellectual curiosity and obligation, not out of any active desire to re-read it.

  2. May 9, 2012 9:30 pm

    It would be my least favorite Austen book too if it weren’t for Sense and Sensibility. I dislike everyone in Mansfield Park but the book doesn’t bore me the way Sense & Sensibility bores me. TO DEATH.

    • May 14, 2012 9:40 am

      Jenny – I didn’t love S&S either, but I didn’t find it particularly boring, or at least not any more boring than this one.

  3. May 9, 2012 11:01 pm

    The opening reminds me of Jane Eyre…but Jane at least set out to do something else with her life. I still have several Austen books to read, and this one is definitely not next on my list… (that’s Northanger Abbey)

    • May 14, 2012 9:41 am

      Cheryl – Oh, Jane Eyre is another one that I should re-read; it’s been six years or so and I think it’s definitely ripe for revisiting. I hope you enjoy Northanger Abbey; it’s not my favorite of Austen’s but it is pretty fun.

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