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Review Revisited: Jane Austen – Mansfield Park

August 10, 2015

Re-read. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (1814)

Read By: Wanda McCaddon
Length: 14h 30m (480 pages)

Genre: Classic, Romance

Originally Read: 23 April 2012
Re-read Started: 17 June 2015
Re-read Finished: 28 June 2015

Where did it come from? Downloaded from Audible.
Why do I have it? Pick of the month for one of my book clubs.

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.

Original 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.

Thoughts on a Re-read: Wow, I really hated this book the first time around! On a re-read, I found I didn’t mind it so much. It’s still not and will never be my favorite Austen, or even my second- or third- (or probably fourth- or even fifth-) favorite Austen, but I was much more positively disposed towards it this time around. My first time through, I thought Fanny was nothing more than a wet rag, but this time around, I think I understood her a little better, understood her disliking conflict and not wanting to cause a bother for anyone around her, and I think I was better able to see that she does have an inner core of strength, even if it’s not usually (ever) on overt display. I still find it a little bit off-putting that she falls for basically the only person who is ever nice to her, especially since he has essentially groomed her since she was a child, and his primary recommendation is THAT he’s nice to her. I think I also did pick up on more of the social commentary going on this time – reading Austen’s books for the second time certainly makes me more at home in her world and therefore better able to pick up on some of the subtler points. So, again: not my favorite by a long shot, but I still enjoyed it better the second time around, and therefore found it worth re-reading. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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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