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Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park (original 1814; edition 2012)

by Jane Austen

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14,432220139 (3.85)4 / 846
Title:Mansfield Park
Authors:Jane Austen
Info:CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2012), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Kindle collection
Tags:Guardian 1000 Novels

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Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (1814)

  1. 91
    Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë (Medellia)
    Medellia: Both books have sweet, shy, thoroughly virtuous protagonists, if you're a fan of that sort of character. (I am, and loved both novels!)
  2. 50
    Lover's Vows (Dodo Press) by Elizabeth Inchbald (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: The play they are rehearsing in Mansfield Park. Worth a quick skim.

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Decidedly my least favorite of Jane Austen's novels. Fanny Price may be level-headed, but her weak, shy, awkward attitude failed to win me over. As the eldest daughter of many in a poor household, she was whisked away at age ten to live at her rich aunt's house as a ward. Always made to feel inferior, Fanny passes the time being timid, meek, and always ready to lend a hand. The four cousins she lives with pay her no mind, save Edmund, who takes her under his wing. When she reaches her eighteenth year she is introduced to all of her cousin's friends and is reluctantly allowed to be a part of their society. Fanny decides to become an excellent wallflower and never really pursues friendship with anyone. When Maria is married and Julia off in London, one of the neighbors and friends of her cousins, Mary, begrudgingly takes her in as a confident, beings as there is no other ladies to socialize with. At this time, Mary's brother becomes obsessed with Fanny and tries too woo her. But Fanny rejects all his advances because, while being a perfect wallflower, she saw his actions and manner towards her cousins and thought it very un-gentlemanly. At this time, dear Edmund decides that he might be in love with Maria, but he is disappointed that she looks down on the clergy, a career path that he will soon be undertaking. What are Fanny and Edmund to do? Is love obvious?

Not a bad read, but it definitely starts off slow and I wasn't in love with any of the characters. I wish Fanny had been a little stronger. ( )
  ecataldi | Mar 27, 2015 |
Mansfield Park tells the story of Fanny Price, a poor relation of the Bertram family, who was brought to live with them when she was ten as an act of charity. Fanny is an odd heroine for a novel by Jane Austen. She lacks spark. Which is no wonder given that she was removed from her home while young, dumped into a strange environment and largely ignored. Her Aunt Norris is one of the worst characters ever put down on paper; all of the evil stepmothers of fairy tale fame would do well to take lessons from her. She makes certain that shy, insecure Fanny will only become more withdrawn and hesitant as she grows up and that the Bertram family will not forget to treat her as an unwelcome charity case.

And that is the strength of this novel. Along with the amazing aunt Norris, Austen has created a whole host of wonderful characters and breathed life into them. From the dull idiot Mr. Rushworth, who is so taken by being given a role in the play the young people decide to put on that involves him learning forty-two speeches (which he is then unable to learn), to Lady Bertram, who approaches a sedentary lifestyle with the dedication of an Olympic hopeful; each character is so interesting in their own right that I wanted several times in this book for Austen to have written other novels following each of them.

Fanny is such an interesting character. She's been systematically berated and ignored until by the age of eighteen she is anxious in any situation where attention might be paid to her, but also resentful when it isn't. She's been ordered to be grateful for substandard treatment so often that she rarely speaks and when she does it's often in an Eeyore-ish passive aggressive way, not that it does her any good. Unless her cousin Edmund happens to be listening, her wishes are entirely disregarded. And so she sits, largely silent, with years of pent-up judgements and opinions inside of her. She's not an easy character to like, although Austen makes clear that while she is silently thinking the worst of the people around her, the face she shows is so quiet and unassuming, that people attribute great kindness to her. It helps that being so shy makes her a very good listener to all the narcissists that surround her, and that she is very pretty. Her improved looks are noticed first by her uncle who, after having spent some months away in Antigua, at the sugar plantation that provides the Bertram family their wealth, begins to talk about her and to her quite a bit, she now being worthy of his notice. It's all a little skeevy, and Fanny, quite rightly, remains terrified of him.

This being Austen, there is a question of the central characters, here Fanny Price and her cousin Edmund, finding spouses. Edmund, a solemn man, plans to enter the clergy and live a rural life, is simultaneously entranced and repulsed by Mary Crawford, who is light, quick-witted and bubbly. She tends to say any witty thing that pops into her head and she often shocks and insults Edmund inadvertently. Of course they can't leave each other alone, and they are each constantly reassessing whether they could be happy together. Then there's her brother Henry, who begins the novel as a flirt who is always looking for new ways to entertain himself and others. He determines to pay court to Fanny as a way of passing the time after all the other eligible young ladies have left the neighborhood, making a contest to himself of winning her affection. Instead, he falls in love while Fanny remains hostile to his advances. His admiration for her causes him to renounce his rakehell ways. Unfortunately, Fanny bore witness to his worst behavior and is disinclined to give his reformation any credit. She attempts to get rid of him several times, but between her inability to speak clearly enough for him to understand and his own determination to win her no matter how long it takes, they are often in each other's company.

We all know how things should turn out -- with a double wedding at the local chapel in the best Austen style, but she throws a curve ball in Mansfield Park, refusing, in the end, to satisfy the reader. And this is where I ran into a problem with this book; I wanted a different ending. I knew what would happen. I'd read the book before. But until the final chapters, I was hoping for it. ( )
2 vote RidgewayGirl | Mar 12, 2015 |
This review and others posted over at my blog.

From Amazon: Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home in Portsmouth, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally. During her uncle’s absence in Antigua, the Crawford’s arrive in the neighborhood bringing with them the glamour of London life and a reckless taste for flirtation.

What I liked:
Wikipedia is telling me that Mansfield Park was published in 1814, and was Austen’s third novel. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t always love classics, because there’s usually a large difference in writing style than what I’m used to today. So for this book to be over 200 years old and hold my attention almost the whole time, in addition to making me chuckle now and then, is a mark in Austen’s favor.

I’m no Austen scholar (or any kind of scholar, really), so I’m sure there’s a lot I don’t pick up on, however, I can’t help but smirk or laugh at the witty way she depicts certain characters. If you’re familiar with anything by Austen, you know that there are typically one or two protagonists, who mostly exhibit all the best qualities of a well-bred middle or upper-class gentleman or lady. Then there are the antagonists, who are typically greedy, backhanded, rakish, passive-aggressively bitchy and selfish. It’s pretty easy to tell from the start of each book who fortune will favor and whose rash decisions will cause them much regret in the end.

I especially loved the amount of passive-aggressive bitchiness that was on display in this book. Naturally, I forgot to tab specific sections, but Fanny’s aunts gave many examples of this behavior. Mrs. Bertram, for example, is constantly dependent on Fanny’s assistance and company and makes it well-known that she can’t do without Fanny. But she also makes snide remarks about no one else could ever want Fanny, so she might as well stay at Mansfield forever.

I saw the romantic setup coming from the very first pages, as well as quickly figuring out who the womanizer was going to be, yet knowing this didn’t stop me from enjoying how all of this unfolded. There’s always an event in her books that reveals a seemingly charming gentleman to really be a cheating prick, and narrowly saves our heroine from throwing her purity away on someone who would just tarnish her reputation and ruin her life. Those who haven’t been kind to our charming heroine always get what’s coming to them as well. Despite the essentially predictable formula of all of Austen’s books, I never fail to enjoy how events play out.

What I didn’t like:
I have to say, Fanny is the most shy, over-emotional and pathetic Austen heroine I’ve read about. I didn’t hate her, but oh my gourd, reading about her constant tears, her deep well of emotion and her complete lack of ability to stand up for herself was incredibly annoying at times. Especially when my favorite Austen work is Pride and Prejudice – Lizzy Bennet is such a strong-willed character and she’s not afraid to speak her mind. Fanny reminded me of a teenage girl blogging about unrequited love and how everyone is mean to her on her LiveJournal or something – or, to be a bit more modern with my reference, someone who only post depressing quotes or lyrics on their Tumblr. Please girl, grow a pair.

I also felt the drama over holding a play was too drawn out. At some point, the Crawfords and Fanny’s cousins decide to perform a play, because when you’re rich and jobless, you need some variety in your free time. Uncle Bertram is away at this time and Fanny and Edmund heartily disapprove of the whole operation, because it’s improper (of course!). Yet, the play is planned, parts are rehearsed, a set is designed and paid for, a guest list is drafted, and Edmund is coerced into joining, all as Fanny looks on with meek disapproval and moral superiority. This is where I started to get a little sleepy – there really wasn’t much going on, despite the excitement of the play, and through it all, I suppose readers were expected to side with Fanny in feeling that the whole scheme was foolish and inappropriate. That’s something that just didn’t translate into my modern life – personally, I’d love to have the time and money to fool around with my friends and put on a little performance for people. But I suppose the whole issue was created to continue to show how proper Fanny really is, compared with the indulgent Crawfords. In the end, the play never ends up happening and so it felt like a bit of a waste and removed me a bit from the overall story.


In the end, I enjoyed Mansfield Park. I wouldn’t place it above Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, but I think I enjoyed it more than Persuasion, as I didn’t really form a connection for any of the characters there. However, I’ve been known to like and understand Austen’s work the more times I read it, so perhaps Persuasion deserves another pass. Looking back at my reading of Northanger Abbey, I totally missed Austen’s message, yet when I read the graphic novel adaptation, all became clear and I enjoyed the story more than my initial thoughts. I digress. At any rate, I don’t think I would suggest Mansfield Park as your first Austen read, because it’s a bit long and slow. However, if you’re already a fan of her work, please be sure to read this if you haven’t yet. ( )
  MillieHennessy | Feb 9, 2015 |
My third Austen novel so far, and the one I've liked the least. All the characters are absolutely one-note, and even though there are moments of real spark as in the previous books I've read, they are few(er) and far(ther) between. It's not until the last fifty pages or so that the novel manages to pick up in pace and excitement, and by then I just wanted to know what misery was going to get served up to all the terrible people who'd been dishing it out for several hundred pages. ( )
  JBD1 | Jan 30, 2015 |
Mansfield Park is Austen's third,least popular,and my second favorite of her novels.It is the least popular because like most of her relatives,most readers do not understand the heroine Fanny Price.Fanny's high sense of morals,duty,honor and gentleness are uncommon in our society today.Today society doesn't have a moral code.I am very fond of Fanny and she is one of my favorite heroines.

I dislike Henry and Mary Crawford,who most other readers seem to like.Henry Crawford is the kind of man who leads you on,gets sick of you,or gets what he wants or both then skips out on you.Leaving you with a broken heart.Henry Crawford is the best actor of all the young people(in play they almost put on in the book).It's because his whole life is that an act.He cannot be himself because he doesn't know himself.His sister Mary is not much better.She values money over character.

Henry charms Fanny's female cousins Maria and Julia.While Mary bewitches Fanny's best friend,cousin,and true love Edmund.Fanny is the only one who doesn't fall under the Crawfords charms.She sees them for who they are all charm,no substance.Fanny Price may not be as lively or witty as some of Austen's other heroines like Elizabeth and Emma but everyone is different.I hope when you read Mansfield Park you love Fanny Price for who she is and not who she isn't. ( )
  thereadingrebel | Dec 22, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jane Austenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drabble, MargaretIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gibson, FloNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lane, MaggiePrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mudrick, MarvinAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ross, JosephinePrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sanderson, CarolinePrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stevenson, JulietNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tanner, TonyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiltshire, JohnPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zuidema, BenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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About thirty years ago, Miss Maria Ward of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet's lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income.
But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world, as there are pretty women to deserve them.
It is Fanny that I think of all day and dream of all night.
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Adopted by the rich Bertrams, Fanny finds her bold cousins are daunting, her aunts and the remote Sir Thomas intimidating. Only thoughtful Edmund recognises her qualities and helps to improve her lot. But when the delightful Mr and Miss Crawford arrive to enliven the family group, even he dismisses Fanny's reservations. At first all is excitement and pleasure. Gradually, however, the effects of recklessness and selfishness accumulate. As Fanny's unswerving integrity and quiet strength become the support of the shattered family, she finds a happiness she could not have anticipated. While displaying the sparkle and clarity for which Jane Austen is renowned, the tone here is often sober and uncompromising. The issues of probity and responsibility are explored, alongside the often unhappy complexities of family life, in a considerable and profoundly satisfying novel.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0141439807, Paperback)

Though Jane Austen was writing at a time when Gothic potboilers such as Ann Ward Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho and Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto were all the rage, she never got carried away by romance in her own novels. In Austen's ordered world, the passions that ruled Gothic fiction would be horridly out of place; marriage was, first and foremost, a contract, the bedrock of polite society. Certain rules applied to who was eligible and who was not, how one courted and married and what one expected afterwards. To flout these rules was to tear at the basic fabric of society, and the consequences could be terrible. Each of the six novels she completed in her lifetime are, in effect, comic cautionary tales that end happily for those characters who play by the rules and badly for those who don't. In Mansfield Park, for example, Austen gives us Fanny Price, a poor young woman who has grown up in her wealthy relatives' household without ever being accepted as an equal. The only one who has truly been kind to Fanny is Edmund Bertram, the younger of the family's two sons.

Into this Cinderella existence comes Henry Crawford and his sister, Mary, who are visiting relatives in the neighborhood. Soon Mansfield Park is given over to all kinds of gaiety, including a daring interlude spent dabbling in theatricals. Young Edmund is smitten with Mary, and Henry Crawford woos Fanny. Yet these two charming, gifted, and attractive siblings gradually reveal themselves to be lacking in one essential Austenian quality: principle. Without good principles to temper passion, the results can be disastrous, and indeed, Mansfield Park is rife with adultery, betrayal, social ruin, and ruptured friendships. But this is a comedy, after all, so there is also a requisite happy ending and plenty of Austen's patented gentle satire along the way. Describing the switch in Edmund's affections from Mary to Fanny, she writes: "I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that everyone may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people." What does not vary is the pleasure with which new generations come to Jane Austen. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:36 -0400)

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Fanny Price, a teenaged girl of low social rank brought up on her wealthy relatives' countryside estate, feels the sharp sting of rejection when her cousin Edmund, the only person who treats her as an equal, is won over by a flirtatious, exciting--and unprincipled--London girl.… (more)

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