Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review

Mansfield Park
by Jane Austen

I ended up liking this one a lot more than Northanger Abbey; which is odd, considering Fanny Price is a lot less of an interesting heroine than Catherine Moreland.  Don't get me wrong, Fanny is very sweet, and I'm glad things worked out for her.  But she's just so...blank?  Is that the word I'm looking for?  Her opinions and values seem to mimic those of her cousin Edmund and her Uncle Bertram.  But is that because she truly believes those things, or because she wants to please both of them?  She worries about herself last and of course selflessness is a good quality, blah blah blah.  I guess I just wish she stood up for herself a little more.  Okay, let me back up a bit.

Book Synopsis from LibraryThing:

Adopted by the rich Bertrams, Fanny finds her bold cousins are daunting, her aunts and the remote Sir Thomas intimidating. Only thoughtful Edmund recognises her qualities and helps to improve her lot. But when the delightful Mr and Miss Crawford arrive to enliven the family group, even he dismisses Fanny's reservations. At first all is excitement and pleasure. Gradually, however, the effects of recklessness and selfishness accumulate. As Fanny's unswerving integrity and quiet strength become the support of the shattered family, she finds a happiness she could not have anticipated. While displaying the sparkle and clarity for which Jane Austen is renowned, the tone here is often sober and uncompromising. The issues of probity and responsibility are explored, alongside the often unhappy complexities of family life, in a considerable and profoundly satisfying novel.

Now, one of Fanny's aunts is Mrs. Norris.  Mrs. Norris was married to Reverend Norris before he died and now lives with her sister, Lady Bertram, and just basically gets on everyone's nerves.  She's a huge busybody, and only Lady Bertram seems to actually acknowledge her opinions as worthy.  Since "Mrs. Norris" is the name of Filch's cat in Harry Potter, I kept imagining THIS Mrs. Norris as a hybrid cat-person.  I did my best to Google what that would look like, so please enjoy this image from Superstock:

So, Henry and Mary Crawford come to town and generally cause a lot of drama because they are just so damn attractive.  All of Fanny's cousins are losing their shit over how hot they both are, except perhaps Thomas, who is pretty dull.  Maria is all over Henry, even though she is practically engaged.  Edmund thinks Mary is just awesome, even though SHE BELITTLES HIS PROFESSION THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE BOOK.  And poor Fanny just cringes every time Mary says something insulting about the church in front of Edmund.  What I don't get is that Mary seems to have genuine feelings for Edmund, but she still can't stop herself from telling him how the military is a much manlier occupation than the clergy and that he should change his career.  Julia Bertram has a pretty obvious crush on Henry, but she sort of takes a backseat to Maria, and let's her sister make a fool out of herself in front of her fiance. 

Lady Bertram really made me laugh throughout the entire book.  She's just so lazy!  She's a wonderfully nice (if not naive) woman who does basically nothing all day.  She takes lots of naps and gets Fanny to read to her and write her letters for her.  Mrs. Norris and Fanny AND Sir Bertram are always running around trying to make sure she's not too burdened by things like telling the housekeeper which rooms to clean for the ball or deciding which lace to use on a handkerchief.  She at least seems to really love Fanny and want her around, even if it is for selfish reasons.

At one point in the novel, while Sir Bertram is away in India, one of Thomas' friends (Mr. Yates) comes to visit and suggests they all put on a play in the house.  Everybody is really excited except for Fanny and Edmund, who try to tell everyone what a bad idea it is.  Apparently it's considered low brow to put on a play?  Fanny is super offended and refuses to have anything to do with it.  Edmund eventually caves in and takes one of the parts because he doesn't want them to offer it to someone outside the family who will see their shame.  Sure Edmund, you just want to play opposite Mary, and that's okay.  OWN YOUR FEELINGS, EDMUND!  That's my next t-shirt.

The play gets cancelled because Sir Bertram comes home is uber ashamed of them.  He's pretty happy with Fanny for being a buzzkill though, so yay, Fanny?

Ugh, so Maria goes on to marry Mr. Rushworth, who I can't help but feel sorry for because he is so silly and boring.  I really don't blame Maria for liking Henry Crawford more, but then she should have told Sir Bertram the truth when he asked her if Mr. Rushworth was really what she wanted.  Why can't we all just communicate with each other?  Julia goes with them on their honeymoon.  Is it just me, or is that super awkward?

Henry decides he wants to make Fanny fall in love with him because I guess that would be really funny?  They must be so bored.  But it doesn't work because Fanny isn't stupid, and she is not about to take up with the guy that publicly flirted with her engaged cousin and then led Julia on and hurt her feelings.  But then Henry falls in love with Fanny and acts like a total fool trying to propose.  He only proposes about a million times and she always says no and then cries because it's REALLY STRESSFUL to tell this douche that you will never marry him because he is a jerk, only to have your WHOLE FAMILY tell you that you are selfish and stupid for not marrying him EVEN THOUGH THEY ALL SAW HIM ACT LIKE A JERK.

But really though, why won't any of them listen to her?  She doesn't like him!  And if she gives in and marries him, who is going to write Lady Bertram's letters for her?  Because it sure as shit isn't going to be Maria or Julia.

And just when I'm wishing that all the Bertrams would fall off a cliff, Fanny receives a cryptic letter from Mary Crawford basically telling her not to believe any rumors about Henry or Maria.  What?  It turns out after almost getting Fanny to at least be friends with him, Henry goes down to visit Maria and talks her into running away with him.  And I guess Julia doesn't want to be left out of the bad decision making, because she elopes with Mr. Yates in the same week.  I honestly don't see what is so bad about that.  But I guess trying to convince your children to put on a play in your house when you are not home is just not something that Sir Bertram can forgive.

Now, even though Maria and Julia did something stupid, I feel for them.  Their reputations are basically ruined.  But I want their family to stand up and say, "My daughters are stupid, but they are MY stupid daughters, and I love them."  But they don't.  Maria gets shipped off with Mrs. Norris somewhere, which I feel is punishment enough.  And Julia is never seen or heard from again.  God Speed, Julia!  I don't understand your family either!

All this excitement was really fun to read, but I was pretty disappointed in the ending.  It's all wrapped up very quickly and there is very little explanation as to why Edmund and Fanny decide to get married.  We know he can't marry Mary Crawford because her brother is awful, but does he even have romantic feelings towards Fanny?  Fanny pines over Edmund for most of the book, but it sort of seems like Edmund just shrugs after this whole affair and says, "Well, what else are we gonna do?"

Not very romantic.

Read more reviews on this book at LibraryThing.


  1. I haven't read Mansfield Park but I did watch film/TV adaptations of it, and I must say... I totally had the hots for Jonny Lee Miller (the 1999 movie) and Blake Ritson (the 2007 ITV adaptation) after watching both. *swooons*

    1. I've kinda been wanting to watch the 2007 version since it has WhatsHerName from Doctor Who in it. She seems like an interesting choice to play Fanny because she doesn't seem like she would just sit back and take everything the way Fanny does.