Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

I found this an interesting novel, although from what I've read apparently this was the most controversial and perhaps least popular of Austen's novels. The book features the character Fanny who is from a poor family, but is taken into her rich aunt and uncle's home and grows up with her four cousins. Her two female cousins are vain and shallow. Her cousin Tom is irresponsible and gambles and parties. Her cousin Edmund is kind to her and she forms a special bond with him and grows to love him. Things get interesting when Sir Thomas, Fanny's uncle leaves for awhile on business and a brother and sister move into the village. I found the interactions between the characters quite amusing at times--the flirtations, the shallowness. I really liked Fanny's character because she could see through everyone, see who everyone really was. And she was determined to marry for love rather than marry for a good financial and social position, and didn't give in easily to what other people thought she should do (a theme seen in Austen's other work); she followed her heart.

It's interesting too to get a glimpse of what life was like in this time for the wealthy. For one thing these people have all this time on their hands and seem to not know what to do with themselves. This leads at one point to some of the characters deciding to act out a play and they go to great lengths in rehearsing, building sets in the house etc. just so they can amuse themselves. Some of the characters strongly disapprove of this play being put on, so that is a big drama too. For some reason, I think the whole play thing in the book will always stand out to me. The play they were acting out, "Lover's Vows" was included in the back of the book, so I read that too. I didn't think the play was all that.

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