Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - Book Review #125

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Mansfield Park
by Jane Austen

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 neighborhood, 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 Crawford's 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.
From goodreads.com

Mansfield Park is my third Jane Austen, after Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice; and I still have quite unsettled opinion on her works. My opinion varies on her books from love to hate and everything in between depending on time of the day, my mood and whatever particular scene from any of these three books I’m thinking about.

I heard that many people particularly dislike and consider Mansfield Park one of the worst Jane Austen’s books. As far as I understood, this negative opinion mostly formed on disfavor towards main character – Fanny Price. I would have to disagree with that opinion. I could probably see why Fanny is a character that most of the people wouldn’t like. Most of the reviewers call her boring. I could see where this is coming from. Fanny is not your regular lovable, strong rebellion that openly fights against something she disagrees with. She is not the character that trying to break old conservatives, senseless regulations. She is shy, tranquil and timid. She settles with her situation; she settles with bulling from her aunt and most of her cousins. However, in this settlement for conservative and “boring” way of living, if you like, Fanny actually fights against open frivolities of her cousins and Crawfords. Fanny is definitely not a part of glamorous, corrupt and “fun or interesting”, if you like, society. Her shyness, weakness and the fact that she finally made to oppose the society she disagrees with, make her even more interesting and courageous character. This small, mousy looking, unimportant girl is ready to go against her family, her benefactors, risk everything she have, because she knows she is right, because she is the only one who wasn’t blinded by glitter of corruption. So despite the popular opinion, I really did like Fanny as a character.

We have all been more or less to blame ... every one of us, excepting Fanny

I like Jane Austen stories. I like her characters. I like her wit. Her writing style is something that I’m not a big fan of. I understand that Austen didn’t have many examples to work with and her Sense and Sensibility novel considered by some as the first English modern novel. However, still, even considering all above, I cannot love Austen prose. It seems somehow very isolated and reductive. There is no influence on the story from outside. It seems to be closed in one manor that has no connections with outside world’s politics or economics. Austin’s works are not something that can be called atmospheric. There are also not many descriptions of characters, settings or attires. The scenes from middle section in Mansfield Park were dragging and unnecessary starched out. At the same time, the ending was rushed and crumpled.

Overall, I would say that I liked Mansfield Park more than I disliked it. As it seems to be a case for Austen’s works, it was a nice story with the happy ending, where everyone gets precisely what they deserve.


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