Friday, May 18, 2012

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen



Mansfield Park  is the story of Fanny Price, a young girl who is shipped off to live with a wealthy aunt because her own home is too crowded and poor.  She is treated with kindness, but almost everyone in the new household considers her no more than a glorified servant - except for cousin Edmund who dares to accept her as a true sister and friend. 

If you are new to Austen, I would not recommend this book as your first attempt.  Fanny Price is widely considered one of the most boring heroines in literature.  I am thankful that the first version (from Penguin Classics) I ever read contained an excellent introduction by Tony Tanner that dispelled this myth.  Tanner wrote that Fanny represented goodness, and that goodness doesn’t have to “do” anything.  It just “is.” While all the other characters in the book are rushing after pleasure with little regard for principle, Fanny waits quietly and bravely.  In the end her virtue is richly rewarded.

The writing is very good (of course!), but this book is slow moving and not nearly as witty as some of Austen’s other novels.   If you stick with it, though, the closing chapters tie things up beautifully and it’s a satisfying read.

This was my first book completed for The Classics Club Challenge.

7 comments:

Jillian said...

This is the book I listed as the one I most look forward to on my list. I've begun it and like it so far, though my favorite Austen is Sense & Sensibility. :-) Congrats on finishing book #1!

Amy said...

I appreciate the quote about Fanny's goodness. I've been wondering whether I should reread this, because it is my least favorite Austen, being longer, slower, and less witty than the rest. It does have its rewards, though.

Vintage Reading said...

With repeated re-reading MP gets wittier! Love the theatricals Lady B who never moves from the sofa. Yes, Fanny can be annoyingly passive, but I loved her kindness in taking her sister back to MP. Agree with Tony Tanner's comments.

Alexis said...

"The writing is very good (of course!), but this book is slow moving and not nearly as witty as some of Austen’s other novels. If you stick with it, though, the closing chapters tie things up beautifully and it’s a satisfying read."

How funny--this is more or less how I felt about the early chapters of Persuasion, which I ended up just adoring (although I still need to find some time to review it). Previously the only Austen novels I had read were Pride & Prejudice and Emma, both of which are of course pretty witty and fast-moving.

But Persuasion, which was certainly slower, had its own unique charm too, and now I'm curious now about how Mansfield Park compares. I've heard several times that MP tends to be a less appealing novel than some of Austen's other works. Sounds like it's worth the read, though! :)

Katherine Cox said...

Mansfield Park is my favorite Austen. I've only read it once and plan a re-read for the Classics Club. Its characters are so different from the rest of her work.

hopeinbrazil said...

Alexis, I didn't like Persuasion the first time I read it, but now it's one of the few books that I've read more than five times. Love it!

Alex in Leeds said...
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