Monday, 23 April 2018

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park is Jane Austen's most profound and perfliexing novel.

Adopted into the household or her uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, Fanny Price grows up a meek outsider among her cousins in the unaccustomed elegance of Mansfield Park. Soon after, Sir Thomas absents himself on estate business in Antigua.

Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive at Mansfield, bringing with them London glamour, and the seductive taste for flirtation and theatre that precipitates a crisis.

I always feel rather reluctant to write a review of such a well known classic. After all, this book was published in 1814, so from  nineteenth century academics to modern day bloggers, not to mention a plethora of academics, I really cannot imagine that I have got anything new to add to the multitude of opinions that are already out in the public sphere.

However, what I can do is to just tell you what I thought of it and why I think that this old timer of a book should be read, read and read again.

First, I love Jane Austen - her sense of wit, irony and social commentary of the time. Secondly, I have read Mansfield Park before although probably not for some twenty years or so. Interestingly, I still have the same copy and I had forgotten all the little notes I had written in the margins of this book. So re-reading this book was a little trip down memory lane for me as well as a reminder of why I like this particular Austen book so much.

Who could fail but love Fanny Price, our indomitable heroine of this book? Published two years after Pride and Prejudice, which I also love, I could not help but see how Mansfield Park demonstrates a maturity in Austen's writing. On the surface, the contrast between Elizabeth Bennett and Fanny Price is significant. Elizabeth is strong and not afraid of standing up to her mother or Mr. Darcy when needed. Fanny, on the other hand, is a quiet, unassuming, almost mouse-like character who does not appear to be at all heroine-like. 

And this is precisely why I liked Fanny so much. Fanny's desire in life is to 'be of use to others', she appears to always put the needs and wants of others before her own until a time occurs within the story when she really has to stand up for herself and refuse to budge despite the maneuvering of all those influential people around her who attempt to bend her will to theirs. I will not go into any further detail here because if you have not read this book then I strongly urge you to do so. If you have previously read it then you might like to re-read it as I have. I think you will really like it and I would love to hear your views.

ISBN: 978-0141439808

Publisher: There are many editions but the above cover photo is taken from the Penguin Classics edition.

About the Author: 

Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature, her realism and biting social commentary cementing her historical importance among scholars and critics.

Austen lived her entire life as part of a close-knit family located on the lower fringes of the English landed gentry. She was educated primarily by her father and older brothers as well as through her own reading. The steadfast support of her family was critical to her development as a professional writer. Her artistic apprenticeship lasted from her teenage years until she was about 35 years old. During this period, she experimented with various literary forms, including the epistolary novel which she tried then abandoned, and wrote and extensively revised three major novels and began a fourth. From 1811 until 1816, with the release of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote two additional novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began a third, which was eventually titled Sanditon, but died before completing it.

Austen's works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century realism. Her plots, though fundamentally comic, highlight the dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and economic security. Her work brought her little personal fame and only a few positive reviews during her lifetime, but the publication in 1869 of her nephew's A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public, and by the 1940s she had become widely accepted in academia as a great English writer. The second half of the 20th century saw a proliferation of Austen scholarship and the emergence of a Janeite fan culture.

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