Thursday, May 17, 2018

Northanger Abbey (Vintage Classics) Paperback – September 9, 2014 by Jane Austen (Author), P. D. James (Foreword) (Vintage Classics)

The heroine of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park", Fanny Price, is often overlooked in comparison to her more attractive or more interesting sisters such as the spirited and headstrong Elizabeth Bennet of "Pride and Prejudice." Still, Fanny Price is worth getting to know, and "Mansfield Park" is worth a read as perhaps Jane Austen's most subtle and complex novel.

One of a growing brood of children in a lower middle class family in Portsmouth, Fanny is placed for raising with her much wealthier Aunt and Uncle Bertram at Mansfield Park in the English countryside. The ten year-old Fanny is painfully shy, physically sickly, and less educated than her Bertram cousins, who mostly ignore or make fun of her. Her Aunt Norris, responsible for the day-to-day raising of her cousins, thrives on tormenting Fanny. Only her cousin Edmund takes an interest in her.

Fanny's Uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, leaves to tend to his estates in Antigua, just as the wealthy and charming siblings Mary and Henry Crawford arrive from London. Mary and Henry will tempt the Mansfield youth into inappropriate behavior, which only Fanny resists. Sir Thomas will restore order when he returns, but at what cost to the household? Fanny herself will be pressured into marriage, facing exile from Mansfield if she refuses. What choices can Fanny make, and how will she find her way to the one man she cares about?

In Mansfield Park, the reader will find an Austen heroine whose attraction is based on her perseverence in the face of very attractive temptations and seemingly reasonable pressures. It is Austen's genius to insert complex characters into the subtle relationships between four families in the story. The story provides a fascinating venue for social commentary and compelling domestic drama. The witty and enthusiastic but morally flawed Crawfords, for example, seem more attractive than the shy, vulnerable, and withdrawn Fanny or the understated Edmund. "Mansfield Park" is recommended to Jane Austen's fans.

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