Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen

I am a major fan of Pride and Prejudice; I reread it every few years, not to mention repeated viewings of the BBC version starring Colin Firth. I also like Emma and Persuasion and have read each twice. All three of these Austen works have strong female protagonists and interesting male counterpoints; each satirizes upper class British society while concluding, somewhat ironically (but satisfyingly for the romantic reader) with a happy marriage.

After listening to three women writers discussing Austen's work, I decided I should give Mansfield Park a second chance and . . .  this book is tedious! I can't even bear to describe the plot. Suffice it to say that heroine Fanny Price is priggish and "insipid" (quoting Austen's mother), and her beloved cousin and eventual husband Edmund is insufferably moralistic (yet falls for a shallow flirt). While Austen suggests that Fanny is a better person than her upper class cousins and their social circle because she spent her early childhood in poverty,  poverty does not seem to be improving the majority of Fanny's siblings and Fanny herself, after a visit to her poverty-stricken family, cannot wait to return to the genteel life at Mansfield Park.

Reading Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time would have been more rewarding.

Favorite Passage:

. . . but Mr. Yates, without discernment to catch Sir Thomas's meaning, or diffidence or delicacy, or discretion enough to allow him to lead the discourse while he mingled among the others with the least obtrusiveness himself . . .   [I like the alliteration, but the careless use of pronouns referring to both Mr. Yates and Sir Thomas is annoying.}

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