Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Taken from the poverty of her parents' home in Portsmouth, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally. During her uncle's absence in Antigua, the Crawford's arrive in the neighbourhood bringing with them the glamour of London life and a reckless taste for flirtation.
I am a huge fan of Austen, and have taken it upon myself to read every piece of her work I can get my hands on. Mansfield Park did not fail to disappoint me, and was filled with the humour, complexities, emotion and romanticism I have come to expect from her.
Most Austen novels centre around young women trying to find their feet in the complex social order of things in the 19th century. This is normally determined by marriage; a sort of snakes and ladders game in social circles. Our protagonist, Fanny, is a completely different breed from Austen's other heroines. She is extremely timid and moral, and is a stark contrast to Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse. She is constant pillar of righteousness throughout the entire novel, whilst being surrounded by the shallow, the disrespectful, and the superficial.
Although this novel is greatly looked upon as a romance novel (as most of Austen's works are), I feel it is a lot more than that. Austen comments greatly on the social structure of the time, of the slave trade, of poverty, and most importantly of family. There is a message here behind almost everything, and it really is wonderful, and exciting!
There is a lot of hints here towards the argument of nature or nurture which are very interesting, and Austen explores whether or not your qualities are innate, or whether they are a result of the environment you are brought up in. She doesn't come to a definite conclusion on this one, but gives us a feast for our thoughts. (If anyone is interested, I haven't come to a conclusion on this argument either, and I am still sitting on the fence)
Austen also sets Mansfield Park - a haven filled with lovely people - in the countryside, and writes about the more urban areas, such as London and Portsmouth as filthy areas of vice and ruin. I loved this. I loved seeing such poverty in Portsmouth depicted as a life that Fanny had escaped, and I loved the contrast when she was finally summoned back to Mansfield.
I found the ending to be rather abrupt and rushed. Since it was the happy ending we were all hoping for, I would've expected it come with a certain coup de foudre. Unfortunately, it was a slowly but surely type of ending, which is more typical of life in general. The romantic in me was hoping for something more, but isn't this always the case?
I can never really bash out a good review on classic literature. I feel a bit humbled, and as though it isn't really my place to comment (a bit like Fanny Price, actually). However, this is quite the Austen novel, and if you're a fan I'd definitely recommend. Love triangles, materialism, charity, walking and talking in well-kept gardens, LETTERS! I loved it.
40 / 72 books. 56% done!