Title: Mansfield Park
Author: Jane Austen
My Rating: 3 stars
While this book is still better than Emma, it does not live up to expectations set before it. Being slow, long and very detailed, a lot gets lost along the way, causing relief when you get to the last page of the book.
*As this is a classic, there are spoilers ahead for the book.
‘We have all been more or less to blame …
every one of us, excepting Fanny’
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 neighbourhood, 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 Crawfords’ 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.
Ooh Austen. We have a complicated relationship. You bring forward wonderful books like Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice and give me such high expectations and then you go and smack them down with books like Emma and Mansfield Park. Can’t we find an equal solid ground?
I unfortunately did not like this book which is disappointing because it is such an intriguing story. Knowing nothing about this book except that there was some infidelity in it, I went in with no knowledge about what was going to happen which kept me reading, even at points I wanted to put it down.
This book is long – over 500 pages. For a book to be this long, it needs to have a lot of drive and this book was severely lacking in it. The story follows Fanny, a young woman who goes to live with some extended family and we follow her for years. We meet her beloved brother William and her favourite cousin Edmund but also get to see her other family members as well as the intriguing Mary and Henry Crawford.
One of the key themes in this book is family and her family is not nice. Her cousins are very mean to her, and she is treated like an invalid. From what I could understand, Fanny was a sickly child, which caused there to be a lot of concern about her health throughout the book. It makes Fanny appear quite insipid which was irritating at times.
I like Fanny’s character. I think her thought processes are very extensive and since we spend a lot of time in her head, the reader gets to know her quite well, seeing everything through her eyes. Austen enjoys giving a lot of juxtaposition of characters – we have very strong and abrasive female characters and then you have quieter demure ones like Fanny. You have the strong, solemn male characters like Edmund, and then you have the equally strong but funny and lighthearted Henry Crawford. I think the fact that Fanny is so honest and truthful plays a big role in how you stick to reading this book.
So much happens in this book that doesn’t end up mattering later which truly shows the monotony of their lives. They spent their days bickering and walking and reading and while that sounds nice for a holiday or some time, reading about it for 500 pages is truly monotonous. There were multiple chapters about the play and their preparation and agonising feelings about it, but as soon as Sir Bertram arrived home, it all stopped. It amassed to nothing which was incredibly frustrating.
I was feeling very hopeful toward the end of the book, hoping desperately that Fanny and Henry would end up together but they didn’t. Instead, Fanny got stuck with Edmund, the one who spend hours pining after Mary Crawford. I feel as thought Fanny got the rough end of the stick. Henry would have been very good to her and I think that he truly began to care for her. He was one of my favourite characters and I am bitter about what happened with him. It’s funny to think that Edmund was one of my favourites at the beginning but then there was a point when I completely switched feelings between the two main male characters. Fanny deserved better than being Edmund’s second choice.
What bothered me with this book is that everything is leading towards Henry loving Fanny, Edmund loving Mary, the play, the family changes but nothing ever eventuates. You get to the end so dissatisfied because what happened in Chapter 4 had no impact on Chapter 42. Every word should matter, but this book just continued and continued. It was ok, but not great.
The book is written in classic language. It is not easily read, but it is beautiful when you get into the hang of things. I do love Austen’s writing, but this was not the book for me. It doesn’t mean I would read it again, as I know this might get better with age.
Recommended for: If you enjoy reading classics and books about a lot of daily life, then you will enjoy this book! (However, I would encourage you to read Persuasion or Pride and Prejudice first!)
Quotes (Spoiler Free):
“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”
“Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions.”
“Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.”
“But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to deserve them.”
“I understand Crawford paid you a visit?”
“And was he attentive?”
“And has your heart changed towards him?”
“Yes. Several times. I have – I find that I – I find that-”
“Shh. Surely you and I are beyond speaking when words are clearly not enough…. I missed you.”
“And I you.”
Have you read Mansfield Park? If you have, let me know what you thought of it!
xx Maddy xx