Review: Mansfield Park, Jane Austen

Rating: 2 out of 5

This was my first foray into Austen and I suspect that it will stay so for a while. Not only does the title contain much baseless slander against naval officers of the highest calibre, but the interminable woes of propriety, which may indeed have mattered two centuries ago, don’t excite me now.

What did Admiral Crawford do to deserve such reckless hatred? That, and the author’s predilection to blame others for one’s actions, turned me against the story even if the premise seemed to be strong to begin with. I did enjoy Fanny Price’s character, and the developments she went through, even though her “new live” turned out to be fantastically better than the “old one” which I don’t think she really seemed to understand herself. Despite the author’s (contradictory) comments about her preferences for what women should be doing, Fanny rarely strikes out beyond what is expected of her and thereby seems to fail in her own mission. In many ways, the women depicted by other writers of the period rule their own fate much more then the country ladies here.

Regarding country life as it was… I imagine this is a fairly accurate portrayal of a time when entertainment was dim, plays were of the devil, men constantly engaged in “business”, and it was unseemly to ask questions from one’s friends. But one of the more interesting questions we get to is the final reasons why Ms Mary Crawford was horrible – she didn’t quite express how horrified she was at her brother’s actions in the right way. Irrespective of the morality of the brother, the guilt by association that Ms Austen demonstrates here makes me uneasy.

And, what’s with the plays? Did one play really ruin the lives of… five people?

I don’t perhaps think really as harshly of this title as I rated it, and my enjoyment grew the further I got into the work. But, I’m not as far to recommend it to anyone.

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