Review: Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park”
Given that our upcoming Bookclub title is The Jane Austen Book Club, dealing with all seven completed Austen novels, it was finally time to read the one I’d never gotten around to: Mansfield Park. Short story: poor little Fanny Price is resentfully brought up by her aunt Bertram’s family; Fanny’s a good little doormat who doesn’t even deserve a fire of her own until she’s 18; the mean Crawfords come to wreak havoc on the flighty Bertrams and Prices; can Fanny withstand her family’s pressure to marry unwisely so she can maintain the high moral ground and await the man she loves? Lawks, yes, and what a long tale it is in the telling.
Written later in life, Austen’s story of the Appreciation of Fanny Price is more politically weighted and morally analysed than her other novels – I’d love to see a usage analysis of the terms “character”, “principle” and “moral” in MP – I unfortunately found it terribly boring. The first volume was just a 200pp drag which only got interesting in the last 30pp, and then it just insisted on dragging on for almost 250pp more with no good ending in sight. The three-volume imperative obviously ruled out any editor’s will to cut-cut-cut this text into Austen’s customary lithe shape. Fanny’s great virtue? The power of abiding until she was proven right, and having a faultlessly submissive character until she needed to defend the moral right – and wasn’t she so pleasingly gentle throughout, compared to the other shameless hussies in her acquaintance? Euchh.
I admit that I enjoy Austen primarily for the charm and wit of her marriage plots, although I could be persuaded to appreciate other plotlines were they not as tediously self-righteous as this one. I did appreciate MP as more socially embedded than her other novels – real, daily amounts of money were mentioned, the lower classes were visited, “grog” and swearing were acknowledged to exist – but Fanny is such a damned moral princess, her world so resolutely upstanding… The beauty of moral purity just doesn’t do it for me, I wouldn’t want to live in Fanny’s tiny world. Bah.
PS 100 posts ahoy.
PPS I think I only finished it in the hopes that Fanny’d do just one interesting thing and plump for the Bad Man. No such luck.
Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading: Assorted home-based reads, generally slightly bored and irritated and wishing the book would be done with
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: My God, that the incipient middle classes had a whole life of leisure, 24/7 of working on their social impact and import… and nothing else – ergh!
Who I’d recommend it to: No.
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; Selected Essays by George Orwell; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Kalila and Dimna by Ramsey Woods