The Classics Club: Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park

At the end of July I picked up Mansfield Park by Jane Austen for the Austen in August event. This is my sixth and final, complete, novel I’ve read by Jane Austen. Sadly my last read had been Northanger Abbey back in 2013! This event seems to have been just the push I needed.

The story begins when impoverished, little Fanny Price comes to live with her wealthy relatives, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, at Mansfield Park. There she grows up and is educated with her four older cousins; Tom, Edmund, Maria and Julia. While Fanny is still treated, by some, as the unwanted poor relation. She does appreciate the comfortable and quiet life she is afforded. However life at Mansfield is to change as the cousins grow, mature, and fall in love. That change is accelerated with the arrival of handsome, vain and frivolous siblings, Mary and Henry Crawford, to the park’s vicarage.

Our protagonist Fanny Price is a quiet, kind and intelligent, young woman. Who on the whole I liked and enjoyed reading about. Sadly Fanny is also rather self-deprecating, which I know from reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, is not a trait I like. There were several times I wanted to give her a jolly good shake and tell her to pull herself together. Fanny is thankfully joined by an interesting and good sized cast of characters. Though there are incidents of unkind words and treatment. Such as Mrs Norris’ sharp tongue, Sir Thomas’ sternness, Lady Bertram’s indifference, and even kind Edmund has moments where he forgets Fanny. For me there was not any truly bad characters. There is also good character growth. Later in the novel we see Sir Thomas’ kinder side and Lady Bertram’s appreciation of Fanny. Actually even the troublesome Crawfords had their light and dark shades. I applaud Austen for another cast of balanced and believable characters.

For me Mansfield Park compared to previous Austen novels was a slow burner. I wasn’t really gripped until Maria and Julia left, and Fanny became the main focus for friendship and love. I enjoyed her visits to the vicarage, taking tea, and the ball. Which were all full of Austen’s trademark, convoluted, witty and beautiful speech and tête-à-têtes. I also think the use of letters kept me gripped, just as much as it did the characters who were waiting for news. Especially when poor Fanny is left stranded with her family in Portsmouth. Cut off from those she loves and who love her. It is a wonderful look into how frustrating it must have been waiting for important news without the aid of phones and the internet!

While the majority of the novel is a slow and comfortable read; there are some real surprises and scandals to come in the last quarter of the book. As I got nearer and nearer the end I couldn’t see how things would be resolved in the pages I had left. Austen ties up the many strands in a neat and pleasant way, but also in perhaps a rather abrupt way; similar to Northanger Abbey. We are told in hindsight about it like a report rather than viewing it for ourselves. This took some of the emotionally pleasure out of it for me. I knew the happy ending but I didn’t really have the chance to feel it.

Mansfield Park was another beautiful glimpse into Regency England. Perhaps not to become my favourite Austen, however still another thoroughly enjoyable novel. I highly recommend to Jane Austen fans. This is my 33rd read off my Classics Club list. Good read.

Have you read this? What is your favourite Austen novel?


19 thoughts on “The Classics Club: Mansfield Park

  1. I also enjoyed Mansfield Park a lot. I don’t usually like characters like Fanny (so passive and self-deprecating), but I felt like I understood WHY she was like that, so I could feel for her… I agree the end was very quick–although so cleverly put with that bit about how it took “just as long as you feel it should have”… There’s a pretty good movie version with Billie Piper that has a cute ending–just a few nice moments of sparking that get a little more romance in than the novel gave us. 🙂

    1. Cheryl, it is comforting to hear I am not the only one who isn’t a fan of “passive and self-deprecating” characters. Although I can see what you mean. Poor Fanny does have some good reasons for why she has become like that. Perhaps that is why I still liked her.

      I thought Billie Piper was in a Austen adaptation but I couldn’t think which one. Thank you for the heads up. I will have to look out for it.

  2. Mansfield Park is my least favorite of JA’s books, probably because like you, I too don’t like self-deprecating heroines. My faves have to be P&P, Emma, and one of her lesser known novels – Lady Susan.

    1. Nish, it is comforting to hear I am not the only one who doesn’t like self-deprecating heroines. Pride and Prejudice has been a popular choice. I also really enjoyed Emma as I think she is the most amusing of Austen’s heroines 🙂

  3. It’s amazing how so many people love Jane Austen and yet all differ over which stories. I love Emma and Pride and Prejudice but also Northanger Abbey which pays a sort of homage to the dark, gothic books of that period- particularly I’m thinking of the Mysteries of Udolpho which I’m sure is mentioned in the book?
    Lynn 😀

    1. Lynn, I wonder if it’s the heroines that make readers love different novels; rather than the stories themselves. My favourite is Sense and Sensibility because I love Elinor. I also really enjoyed Emma as I think she is the most amusing of Austen’s heroines 🙂

      I think Mysteries of Udolpho and The Monk were mentioned in Northanger Abbey.

  4. I can’t decide if this or Persuasion is my favourite Austen – I loved them both. I have to agree, MP is very very slow. If it weren’t for Fanny I wouldn’t have kept reading. I felt her emotions as I read it.

  5. I love Mansfield Park – it’s up in my top three with P&P and S&S. But I think it took me two or three readings before I really felt that way because it definitely doesn’t have the zing of either of the other two. I love the portrayal of Fanny though – so nice to have a heroine who isn’t really very heroic, just quietly consistent. Though I often wanted to shake her too! 😉

    1. It is lovely to hear you have come to love this more and more as you’ve re-read it. I hope it is the same for me 🙂 I think “quietly consistent” is a perfect description of Fanny.

  6. I really liked Mansfield Park. I like that it’s a slow burn, and the quiet girl gently takes over the position as leader of the moral integrity. This was the last Austen I read too. I kind of think Austen made it slow on purpose — as in, “Guess what? There isn’t always intrigue. Sometimes the quiet girl will surprise you.” I agree with Geoff above. But my favorite is Sense & Sensibility.

      1. Jillian, my favourite is also Sense and Sensibility. I agree though it was lovely to see the quiet girl triumph in this book. I really began to engage with the book when the cousins left and Fanny got the limelight 🙂

  7. I just finished reading a book about Jane Austen, and one thing it said was that Austen was a true realist and didn’t want to write anything that could be compared to the sentimental novels that were popular during her time. That’s why the happy endings usually happen outside of the book. I am itching to re-read Mansfield Park now, and also Sense and Sensibility. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

    1. TJ that’s really interesting. It would explain the ends of this and Northanger Abbey. I hope you have time for your Austen re-reads soon, especially Sense and Sensibility as that is my favourite 🙂

  8. Fanny Price is my favorite Austen heroine and I think you described her perfectly. I also think this really highlights Austen’s talent and where she could have gone if she hadn’t of died so young! There’s so much more she could’ve written and sneaked into her works! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    1. Thank you Geoff. I am so pleased I nailed the description, especially as Fanny is your favourite Austen heroine! It is very sad that Austen died young. I agree I think she had plenty more, great novels in her.

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