03/05/2005

Mansfield Park (by Jane Austen)


On Sunday I finished reading 'Mansfield Park' by Jane Austen. I read this first as a teenager, and again perhaps twenty years ago - but certainly not for a long time. That was good, because I'd forgotten most of what happened, and I had previously annotated the notes at the back with a large NO by those which gave plot spoilers!

It's one of my favourite Austen novels - a gentle romance with some lovely ironic humour in some of the caricatured minor characters. The heroine is Fanny Price, a poor relation of the Mansfield Park family who is brought to live with them to help Fanny's mother whose family is large. Sir Thomas, owner of Mansfield, is benevolent but distant; his wife is also kindly but vague and constantly tired. Their two daughters are spoilt and often badly-behaved, although at heart they're not unpleasant, and their two sons are rather older: Tom wastes money, Edmund is kindly and religious, albeit rather serious. Fanny is terrified and homesick when she arrives, and only Edmund's kindness makes life worthwhile for her at first.

As with most of Austen's books it's a character-driven village-style novel that revolves around the main characters and their closest friends, but unlike the rather dreary 'Emma', which I read a few months ago, 'Mansfield Park' is light, reasonably fast-pace (by Austen's standards, anyway!) and has a fair amount of action.

Long-winded in places, admittedly, but on the whole very enjoyable. My Pan Classics version did have some useful notes about language and customs of the day, as well as the plot spoilers which I didn't read until I had finished the book - and was very glad that I was able to avoid them since there were some surprises and clever twists before the - inevitably satisfactory - ending.

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