A few months ago, I read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. It’s taken me a while to get around to my review of it. I think this is because I didn’t really enjoy it that much and I usually find it difficult so say anything of worth about books that I don’t enjoy. I suspect that I started reading the book expecting something as entertaining as Pride & Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility. As much as we try not to, it’s often difficult not to compare one of your favourite novels, to another novel by the same author. I was expecting the light humour and memorable characters of Pride & Prejudice but was instead faced with the opposite.
While perhaps not as popular as Pride & Prejudice, it is considered by many to be Austen’s greatest work. It has a slightly more serious tone than that of Pride & Prejudice, but still deals with the difference between social classes and young ladies coming of age. At 10 years old, Fanny Price is taken from her large and relatively poor family, to live with her aunt and uncle at Mansfield Park. She becomes especially close to her cousin Edmund, the youngest son of her aunt and uncle, and therefore her cousin. She is not made to feel overly welcome by the rest of the family and so the brotherly kindness of Edmund has much more of an effect on Fanny than it would have otherwise. Eventually Fanny’s love turns into more than that of a cousin but not thinking herself worthy, she keeps her love hidden. But when her uncle travels overseas for business and the beautiful and alluring Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive at the Park, Fanny’s quiet life is turned upside down and she soon finds the attentions of Edmund waning, as Mary becomes more familiar with the family.
What can I say about this book? I didn’t hate it, but I have definitely read better, and I am definitely not one of those people who believe it’s her best novel. I found the heroine, Fanny, to have a personality similar to cardboard in comparison to the vibrant Elizabeth Bennett and Edmund is certainly no Mr Darcy. He was a little too nice and his tendency to change his ideals was rather frustrating. The supporting cast I found to be one dimensional, predictable and just the tiniest bit boring. To me, they seemed to have just one role to play and never really grew as characters, which didn’t allow the story to go anywhere. The plot was also lacking a little – there were no events that grabbed my attention and made me want to read on, making this book very difficult for me to get through. I think the story would have benefited from a couple less characters and a little bit more variety in what they did.
It took me a while to finish this book, but I did finish it. I won’t be in a hurry to pick it up again but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t recommend people to not read it. It was interesting to see the difference in Austen’s writing and the how the ending came about. I did find that the ending was a little obvious, the way it eventually came about was somewhat unexpected. Mansfield Park may not be as entertaining as some of her other books, butit clearly resonates with many people. I may be one of the few people who liked it, but I can appreciate that it is good enough to still be around for reading today.