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Mansfield Park - Jane Austen

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Author: Jane Austen / Genre: Classic Literature

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    12 Reviews
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      20.06.2012 14:08
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      Worth taking the time to read

      This is the first Jane Austen Novel I read, and lead to my love of all her books, in fact I was so entranced then I managed to read half the book in one afternoon. When I first read the book, I found the character of Fanny a bit insipid, and uninspiring. However when I reread the book, I realised that she is actually quite a strong person, just in a very quiet way, and that really is the point of the story, Fanny is constantly overlooked and ignored in favour of the more forceful personalities. Her strength of character and ability to see people how they really are is underestimated. There are some lovely moments between her and Edmund where you can tell that he is begining to understand just how strong her values are. It all comes right in the end and Fanny's value is realised, which leads to a lovely happy ending.

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        17.04.2011 02:12
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        Fantastic for reading on leisurely summer days.

        Let me start by saying I am not usually an Austen fan. When I saw that Mansfield Park was on the reading list for my course I was not best pleased especially since we'd only just finished Sense and Sensibility which I was not a fan of. To my surprise though I found Mansfield Park engaging and I ripped through it in a couple of days. The narrative has more substance than many other Austen novels. It is a fascinating insight into the importance of class in the Romantic era and it interestingly also makes passing references to the slave trade. The characters are well formed which led me to really detest the cruel Mrs Norris (JK Rowling's inspiration for Filch's cat) and actually sympathize with the gutsy (for Austen) protagonist Fanny (I've never sympathized with an Austen heroine before so I was rather impressed.) I always take it as a sign of a good book when characters can illicit an emotive response so bravo Miss Austen, perhaps I'll not relegate the remaining books of yours I haven't read to the dustbin.

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          26.01.2011 12:24
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          Classic social satire

          'Mansfield Park' was Jane Austen's third novel and first published in 1814. She is obviously a very famous author, with her home in Chawton kept as a museum and an active Jane Austen Society. Her novels have been turned into mini-series & films repeatedly over the years, although 'Mansfield Park' has been lower profile than her others, perhaps.

          The novel is available new from Amazon itself at £1.99, and available cheaper through other sellers. You may well be able to pick it up second-hand: I bought my copy from the local charity shop for 50p.

          I have recently rediscovered Austen, not having enjoyed her works at all in my youth, and this book is responsible for my different perspective and fresh enjoyment. I've been building up a shelf full of classics for when the children are at that stage at school and when I saw this book in the charity shop, thought it a good purchase and good time for me to try reading Austen again.

          'Mansfield Park' is a darker book and more serious in tone than I had imagined.

          It's classic Austen territory with town and country values at odds, while taking a more complex and nuanced approach to her usual themes than other of her works (I'd read years previously) led me to expect. It's interesting to note that issues around colonialism/slavery and the events going on around Austen at the time of writing (such as the Napoleonic wars) don't seem to touch the book. I think it's possible that this slight step outside the historical reality has helped give Austen's works their longevity: while they reflect the times it's more nebulous and pliable than it would perhaps be if firmly rooted by explicit references.

          As with her other novels, 'Mansfield Park' is primarily a social satire, with Fanny the virtuous poor relation navigating a privileged, sometimes decadent household. The family pressures and budding romances, complicated social mores and values, twists and turns make for a pleasant trip into an elegant world.

          The protagonist Fanny is far less appealing superficially than many of Austen's other female leads: passive, sickly, dully dutiful and *always* right, but oddly I grew to like her very much. She is certainly not as attractive and likeable as Elizabeth Bennet of 'Pride and Prejudice', for example. She is a stoic and endures rather than actually *doing* anything; she is the moral centre while all the other characters are in flux, even her beloved Edmund, who supposedly instilled in her all that is of value. She is not immune to pressures or temptations, but she recognises them for what they are.

          A lot of people seem repulsed by Fanny and therefore find 'Mansfield Park' a more challenging read than those featuring more instantly appealing characters, but I did warm to her.

          It was a real surprise to me how much I enjoyed the novel, and it has meant that I have begun to revisit Austen's other works. 'Pride and Prejudice' was an awful lot funnier than I remembered it, so there's definitely something to be said for going back to those books that you couldn't get on with first time around. I wonder if it's that I'm older or that I'm reading for my own pleasure rather than for a school or college course?

          If you loved other Austen's and haven't read this one, I'd recommend you try it, but you may well not enjoy it as much as her others. If you've never read any Austen, this might not be the best one to start with. The language and writing style is of its time so if you're more used to contemporary reading it may seem difficult to begin with, but it's something you get used to. It is beautifully written and well-worth persisting with.

          For me, I actually prefer this book to 'Pride & Prejudice'.


          Product details (as available from Amazon):

          # Paperback: 400 pages
          # Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd; Reprint edition (1 May 1992)
          # Language English
          # ISBN-10: 1853260320
          # ISBN-13: 978-1853260322
          # Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.2 x 2.2 cm



          (A slightly different version of this review is online at LibraryThing and elsewhere under my user-name).

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            10.01.2010 12:32
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            Might be hard going, but worth it

            Once upon a time there were three sisters. One married Sir Thomas Bertram of Mansfield Park. One married the parson at Mansfield Park, Mr Norris. Another, defied the family by marrying the poor Mr Price, an officer in the Marines, and had a daughter named Fanny...

            The story begins when Fanny, the eldest of nine children, is taken to live at Mansfield Park to help ease the burden on her parents. Fast forward ten years later and she is eighteen, having to contend with a stern uncle, languid aunt, a nosy gossip of an aunt in the shape of Mrs Norris, and two spoiled, frivolous cousins. Only her cousin Edmund shows her any real friendship or kindness.

            The Crawfords, Mary and Henry, later come and live nearby and further complicate Fanny's life.

            Mansfield Park is probably the most problematic and controversial of Jane Austen's novels. It is the least obviously witty, though the characters of Lady Bertram and Mrs Norris show evidence of Austen's usual wit and sharp characterisation (and JK Rowling named the cat in her Harry Potter books after Mrs Norris!). The moral nature of the book (and perhaps the social realism - Fanny's parents live in a poor part of Portsmouth, a world away from the finery of Bath) has put a lot of people off. The first time I tried to read the book, I was fifteen and put it down after a few chapters because it was 'boring'.

            The character of Fanny is one of the reasons why readers don't seem to take to the book. Austen's own mother called her 'insipid' and she has been criticised for being moralistic, objecting to the play her cousins and friends put on, and feeling uncomfortable in her own home in Portsmouth when she returns there for a 'holiday'.

            They are all valid concerns: Fanny does seem to take the high ground rather a lot. As far as the play is concerned, it should be remembered that values were different two hundred years ago and what seems ridiculous to us now might not have back then. On the other hand, Austen herself performed plays in her home so perhaps Fanny was just being overly careful. However, her main objection to the play seems to be that her uncle will not like it. A lot of Fanny's morality stems from her concern from other people. She dislikes Henry Crawford's attentions to her cousin Maria because of the hurt they cause to Maria's sister, Julia, and her future husband, Mr Rushworth.

            I actually find Fanny a very sympathetic character. She lives among people who, for the most part, either forget she is there, point out her character failings, or remind her that she is inferior to her cousins. Later in the book she sticks to her decisions despite great opposition, proving that she has courage as well as convictions. Throughout the entire book she is in love with her cousin Edmund and has to put up with all the pain this causes. Austen describes her feelings very well and I can't see that anyone who has been in a similar situation wouldn't empathise with her.

            I disagree with Fanny's assessment of the Crawfords: I find them both to be likeable characters (at least until the end, as far as Henry is concerned) - but Fanny's reaction to Mary is entirely understandable given the circumstances.

            The main problem I have with this book is the ending. It is a typical Jane Austen ending, but it just doesn't ring true for me. I won't quote it for fear of spoiling the story for those who haven't read it, but I get the impression it doesn't sit right with Austen either, and that she is writing with tongue firmly in cheek, creating the ending that everyone expects.

            I definitely recommend this book. It is not as light-hearted as Emma, or as funny as Pride and Prejudice, but it is well worth it.

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              07.01.2010 22:38
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              A truly moving story which I would thoroughly recommend.

              In the Jane Austen fan community there are often polarised views on this novel. Even when it was first published in 1814, opinion was divided. Austen collected comments about the book in the 2 years following its publication, and they ranged from "did not much like it -- not to be compared to P. & P. -- nothing interesting in the Characters" to "I read every line with the greatest interest & am more delighted with it than my humble pen can express."

              Almost 200 years later and things have not changed much. There are those that love it, and those that loathe it. I feel that as this is one of my favourite books of all time, I must stick up for Mansfield Park!

              Fanny Price is not your regular heroine. Rather than being bold, daring and perilously beautiful, she is timid, shy and paid the dubious compliment of being 'almost pretty'. And yet, Fanny is by no means without courage. Growing up with her rich older cousins, Fanny constantly has to bear the burden of being the 'poor relation' who is not allowed to enjoy the privileges of the rest of the family. The only member of the family who treats Fanny with the support that should morally have been given her is Edmund Bertram, her cousin. Edmund's kindness to Fanny causes her to regard him as her friend, her best friend, and eventually something more than that.

              But with the arrival of the Crawford siblings in Mansfield, the fashionably unscrupulous Mary and Henry, all of Fanny's humble hopes are shattered. Edmund falls hopelessly in love with Mary Crawford, and Henry, after flirting scandalously with Fanny's cousing Maria, proposes to Fanny. Having fallen into this terrible dilemma, trying to weigh the expectations of her family with her own feelings, Fanny is unable to confide truly in her mentor Edmund, because he has succumbed to the charms of the Crawfords. She has only her intuition to guide her, as at the age of 18, her experiences are not varied or helpful.

              This is a tale of courage and bravery that is made all the more extraordinary given Fanny's character and circumstances. For most of the novel she has only her own strength to lean on and guide her through these testing times, and eventually it sees her through. Mansfield Park presents a wide range of characters, from the comic to the flirtatious to the shy to the pompous. There will be at least one character you can identify yourself with (and probably more than one that reminds you of someone you know!). Overall this is book is far from dull; it is a heart-rending account of a courageous young woman whose circumstances have been against her since her birth, how she struggles against society's prescribed future for her, and ends up with all she ever wanted.

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                26.06.2009 11:06
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                Not Jane Austen at its best

                I could say I am a big fan of Jane Austen, not only of her books but the person as well.
                How she should have suffered at that times when women could not do much or be much. I really admire her for being so strong and ahead of her time.

                In her books you always have a great portrait of the society of the period, their manners and way of thinking. Usually more of the upper and middle class but in "Mansfield Park", also of the poorer.

                The main character of the book is Fanny Price, a poor girl living in Portsmouth who is invited by her rich aunt, Lady Bertram, to live with her family in Mansfield Park.
                Fanny is only 10 years old then and her parents do not think twice before sending her away, after all it will be one less mouth to feed. The only one who really feels Fanny's departure is her brother William.

                The Bertrams receive her very coldly and indifferently. Sir Thomas, her uncle, is a very rigid man; Lady Bertram is very lost on herself; Maria and Julia, her cousins of similar age to herself, do not care much about her, thinking Fanny just as an inferior and her other two cousins, Tom, the eldest son and Edmund just look to scary to her.
                But the worst is her other aunt, Mrs. Norris, a bitter woman who shows no kindness to Fanny and only make her feel really miserable.

                Fanny finally finds friendship, guidance and support in Edmund who will be the one to build and consolidate her character.

                The years passed by and nothing really is different in Fanny's life in Mansfield till the arrival of the Crawfords to the Parsonage which will change quite a lot in the lives of the ones who dwell in Mansfield.

                Fanny in the meantime falls in love with Edmund but he is completely unaware of it and also he is too busy thinking of Mary Crawford.
                Fanny also manages to captivate a gentleman's heart but she is totally indifferent to it.

                Will Fanny ever manage to gain her cousin's heart?

                Summing it up, I think Fanny Price is a bit of a weak heroin, too shy, too afraid, if compared to other Austen's characters making "Mansfield Park" a bit dull. Also the middle of the book is quite slow and long leading to a very rush up end.

                I wish the conclusion of the book would not be so sudden. There is no really development to it.

                Clearly a Jane Austen book but not at its best.

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                28.05.2008 22:44
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                Would appeal to Jane Austen fans?

                I, like many other young people have only read this Jane Austen novel as part of A-level studies. I love reading and am able to read anything from James Herbert to Shakespeare, so Jane Austen has never phased me at all.

                My main character, a female as in most of Jane Austen novels, is called Fanny Price and comes from a poor family so is sent to live with rich relatives on the estate of Mansfield Park.

                Fanny is portrayed as a very sickly person who often begins to feel tired and faint if outside for too long! Not at all what we would see from usual Heroine type characters. She isn't strong willed or broad minded but quite the opposite. She sinks into the background and observes her cousins and friends.

                I found that Austen spent pages and pages describing surroundings, gardens and the weather which can be fine to set the scene but dose go on for far too long and becomes very boring to read. I often found myself scan reading the pages just to get through it.

                There are a few twists to the tale that is suppose back when it was written may of shocked the reader and perhaps because of that reason Jane Austen only spent a few paragraphs on these issues.

                Throughout the story it becomes obvious that Fanny is quite in love with one of her cousins but being a typical prudent English female does nothing about this and awaits for him to hopefully make a move.

                This is quite a hard novel to read as not much actually happens throughout and i was quite relieved for it to come to an end. This is probably not one of Austens better novels.

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                16.03.2001 01:29
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                i am currently studying this book at a-level, and i have to say, me and trhe rest of my class believe this to be the most boring book jane austen wrote during her career, and possible one of the most uninteresting books ever written in the history of mankind. fanny price the main character, is a pityful, sorrowful character who never does anything wrong or daring (by todays standards). by the end of the book we are confussed as to whether we should like her or hate her. typical old english writing makes it almost impossible to read properly and the length, just short of 400 tiny print pages, mean that it has been sheer hell to study. please do not force your children to read this novel, they will never forgive u!!!!!!

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                  21.02.2001 21:21

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                  It took me years to get any further than the first few pages of Emma which is why i have been put off reading any other work by Jane Austen. however, I loved Mansfield Park becuase the story got going a lot more quickly than Emma did. The story is about Fanny Price who is sent to live with her richer cousins in the country as a favour to her parents. Fanny grows up being able to watch and observe the other members of the family from the outside and therefore ebcomes a good judge of character. Things in the household all start to go array when a new family of young people move in nearby and hormones start flying here there and everywhere. What the story comes down to is whether Fanny will accept the proposals of Henry Crawford or not... I shall leave you to find out but i promise, the story is definitely not as predictable as you will think when you first start to read it!

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                  29.01.2001 18:16
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                  For anyone who was ever made to study Jane Austen at school my plea to you is: give her another chance. At age sixteen (or whenever), when all you want to know about is next weekend, it's very hard to digest something like Austen where the highlight of most young girls' day is taking a turn about the room. When I was studying Pride and Prejudice I thought her writing was pointless and trivial, but now I really can't get enough. In my view Mansfield Park is her best novel (well perhaps parallel to P&P, although I'm being swayed by the TV version). As a caution DO NOT watch the recent film of Mansfield Park to gain any idea of what the book is about, as it is about as true to the original as Bill Clinton was to Hilary, and would make Austen turn in her grave. Short summary of events: Young girl from poor family is sent to live with rich well-educated family (yes there are reasons for this), grows up among them as their inferior, eventually comes into her own and gets her man. There are a lot of excellent characters in MP, the cream of which is the witchy Mrs Norris who is described in a very cutting and amusing way. Austen is not generally considered a comic author but her social observations can certainly be scathing enough to raise a laugh. The subject matter is fairly typical Austen - marriage and 'society' - but the plot is relatively complex (not to follow, but it has a number of clever twists). It is also a very good length and will keep the average reader entertained for a good couple of weeks. The only possible downsides to this book are that the writing style is very much of its time and may not be immediately engaging, but it is worth persevering with; secondly you kind of know all the way through that Right Will Be Done and everything will be ok. Having said that, it is not always apparent how this pleasant conclusion will come about, so maybe it's not such a bad thing.

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                  05.12.2000 21:07

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                  The heroine of Mansfield Park is perhaps the most well developed of all of Austen's characters. We see inside her every thought and motivation. The possibility of romance keeps the novel suspenseful, but the ending is ultimately disappointing. A relationship is announced--but you never get to see it develop, and no words are exchanged. Austen novels are always about the before of a romantic relationship, but this one was particularly abrupt in announcing the eventual union which is the conclusion of all such romances, and after several hundred pages of reading, such abruptness can be keenly disappointing. The latter of this book feels slightly rushed, which spoils it somewhat, but that cannot detract from it being a very good novel indeed. This is a Decent read, but by no means the classic that I hoped.

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                  25.07.2000 04:11
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                  If you were to see the film released not so long ago, and then read the book, you might be forgiven for thinking the book a little lacking in action. And you'd be right, because it is. And this is where the film goes oh so wrong. Jane Austen herself named Mansfield Park as one of her greatest works, and yet it still lurks in the shadows of those more frivolous works such as Emma and Pride and Prejudice. Don't get me wrong - these are fantastic novels. My point is only that Mansfield Park equals them, and so deserves it's own share of praise. The story centers around a girl called Fanny Price. Her mother ran off with a sailor and her rich family disowned her. When they regain contact the rich relatives, the Bertrams of Mansfield Park, offer to foster their daughter Fanny. Fanny grows up bullied and belittled by all of the family, conciously or unconciously, except her cousin Edward, with whom she falls in love. Despite the impression that might be gathered from the film, she is not a wild, fiery tempered young thing straining under the chains imposed upon her by the Bertrams, fuming with anger at her subservient status and lack of recognition. She is, by her very nature, mild tempered, conservative, sensible and sensitive, and as willing to be grateful as everyone around her is to make her so. She is quiet, rather prudish, of no particular beauty and of no particular note. She is probably Jane Austen's most plain heroine, but that just means that it is more difficult to see her worth, not that she has none. Mansfield Park is much more than a tale of love and tragedy in a small country environment (the classic Austen template). The main theme of the novel, in my opinion, is the battle of good against evil: Fanny and Edward against the Crawfords, with the other characters in between. What makes this a masterpiece is that it is not this simple. The characters are so beautifully portrayed that the reader continually sees n
                  ew sides of the characters - no one is straightforwardly good or nice, and no one is completely evil, either. This is a tale of human beings, and human failings. When I first read it I thought it was actually quite boring. But with a little closer attention it can be seen to carry all the hallmark qualities of Austen's work, including her subtle, clever, and above all entertaining style - a fact which unfortunately manages to pass most people by. A word of advice: this is not Pride and Prejudice, nor is it Mills and Boon - read it slowly and appreciate it more. PS. If you like the book then watching the film is certain to inflict much pain on the sensitive human being.

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