August 23, 2013
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (Review)
Author: Jane Austen
First published: 1814
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I must admit that Mansfield Park, the second book I read for this year's Austen in August event, was a bit of a disappointment comparing with the other Jane Austen's novels I've read. The novel can't boast either equally brilliant characters or such a satisfactory closure as Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion. It also feels like it's a bit overstretched, which is totally NOT common for Austen works. Usually you just can't get enough :) There may be spoilers below, so be warned!
My first problem was that I couldn't find anybody to like in Mansfield Park. Fanny Price is considered to be Austen's favourite character, but I don't quite see why. She is not bright, she is meek, she hardly ever speaks and she doesn't have an education to speak of. She is bossed around by everybody and thinks it's normal. Of course, one must consider her Cinderella-like situation and the ideas of proper behaviour at that time, but I can't imagine Elizabeth Bennet, for example, letting anybody go away with treating her like this :) Edmund, the second character who is supposed to be "good" is just dull and indecisive. Sometimes I thought the only topics that interest him are propriety, seriousness and emmm... let's say internal morality, although it sounds pathetic. He is pathetic, after all. But Edmund turns out to be a hypocrite in all his beliefs, because he falls in love with the most coquettish, immoral and spoiled girl ever. To make things worse, he just can't speak out his feelings, although there is an understanding between them for a long time. And after his disappointment in Mary, he finds consolation into quiet and domestic Fanny. How dull and predictable.
Which brings me to my next point, and that's the plot. First, the final match is SOOO unconvincing and dull, as I've already mentioned. How much better would it be for Fanny to actually bring Crawford to better life and marry him! And for Edmund to convince Mary to accept him... Or, you know, some reasonable ending. But it seems Austen was a bit tired by the end of the novel, so all the scandalous action is described through few letters, and then all the most important matches and consolations are just described briefly in the final chapter. Comparing with the novel's beginning, the level of detailing is unbearably low, so we'll never know their reasons and feelings. Which means I'll stay unconvinced.
And here we come to the style, and the most suitable word here is heavy. It is mainly a mixture of elaborated constructions, indirect speech and piles of words. And nearly NO dialogues. That's the thing I can't possibly condone. When reading a 19 century novel, I want some heated dialogues, full of hints, cleverness and good breeding! I want some true love speeches! At least from the guys who are main characters and for some reason end up together. Nothing of the sort...
Now that was a lot of rambling, but it is just probably because I am not in a very good mood right now. If you do not listen to me, you'll find everything you want from such kind of novels here. It's still well-written, has a lot of atmosphere, social satire and quite some scandal. It was just not enough for me, and I don't like to be disappointed when I expect a lot from a book...
In my book:
Mansfield Park is a solid Jane Austen classic, but nowhere near Pride and Prejudice! It made me sad and induced me to go look at some Colin Firth in a wet shirt photos on the Internet.
BTW, did you know they made a stature of him in London? It looks like this: