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Mansfield ParkMansfield Park by Jane Austen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I recently read an annotated version of Mansfield park, and while the book was fascinating from a historical and informational perspective, I found the story and writing itself rather heavy-handed. I believe that of Austen’s novels, this one has aged the least gracefully.

Fanny is, like Melanie Wilkes of “Gone With The Wind,” a mealy-mouthed chit. A goody-goody without the faintest spark of spirit (or realism) who sits passively by and somehow allows her faint charm to carry the day.

On the other hand, lazy, spoiled wastrel Tom Bertram, louche Henry Crawford, and vulgar, coquettish Mary Crawford are all so broadly characterized that they, too, strike me as caricatures rather than characters.

Then, there are the Socratic dialogues between saintly Edmund and insipid Fanny; effectively, Edmund works a pygmalion job on Fanny, evidently an age-old device in love stories.

Even taking into account the differences in women’s roles between Austen’s day and today, even taking into account the differences in literary styles, I still have a hard time wholeheartedly praising this novel on account of its lack of subtlety and overt didacticism. It struck me as Austen having some sort of axe to grind, as opposed to her usual smiling-in-her-sleeve approach, and in that, lost a great deal of charm.

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2 Responses to “Mansfield Park – probably not on my “re-read list””

  1. Nimble says:

    I read it a few years ago in the rush of going through all of Austen’s novels. My reaction is that it’s too long without any characters that I wanted to spend time with. I ended up wondering what was the author trying to do? Was it all piety and virtue? Was she trying to convince herself of some ethical something? I won’t be rereading that one.

  2. Meetzorp says:

    Julia was another one that had me kind of puzzled. Was she a pointless character or what? She was practically a non-entity. Maria was obviously a social climber and a flibberty-gibbet, but I kept forgetting who Julia even was.

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