First off, I will say I was delighted to see a book by Jane Austen on Jessica’s reading list. Austen is my favorite 19th century author. I love her writing style, her plots, and the world in which she lives. I think because it is so radically different from my own and a great escape.
Mansfield Park was first published in 1814 after the success of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s most popular novel. It is probably the least known of her six books. I vaguely remember reading Mansfield Park in my 20s and not liking as much as some of her other more famous works. However, my life has dramatically since then, so I decided it was time to read it again.
In the first few lines Austen writes:
“there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world, as there are pretty women to deserve them”.
She goes on to tell the story of three sisters. Lady Bentram, one married well, Mrs. Norris, who married middling and poor Mrs. Price, who married very badly indeed. Fanny, the oldest daughter of Mrs. Price, is the heroine of Mansfield Park.
At the age of nine, Fanny is sent off alone to live with her wealthy relatives, the Bentrams, on their estate. She is naturally scared and apprehensive, and is immediately labeled by her aunt, Mrs. Norris, as ungrateful. The rest of the family, Sir and Lady Bentram, the oldest son, Tom, the two daughters, Maria and Julia were not unkind, but generally ignored her with the exception of the youngest son, Edmund, who becomes her friend and confidant.
Fast forward, several years, Sir Thomas is away tending to his failing plantation in Antigua. Fanny is now seventeen, still living at Mansfield Park as a poor relative, when Henry and Mary Crawford, siblings of the new parson’s wife arrive on the scene. The young people decide to perform a controversial play, Lover’s Vows by Elizabeth Inchbald. What ensues are several romantic flirtations which are not entirely appropriate, and later scandals which members of the Bentram and Crawford families.
Throughout the novel, Fanny is the moral center of the family and displaying much virtue than her more wealthy cousins. She is not witty like Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, however her quiet manner has a way of growing on you. In the end, she does marry, but it is not the ending one expects for a Jane Austen heroine. I enjoyed the book, much more than I did at the age of 20, probably due to the ending. I think it is because I now have a much more realistic view of love, and marriage.
What did you think of the book?
For a different perspective, please hop over to Life As Mom. Jessica is the hostess of "Booking It" , and features a new book review on the 10th of each month.