Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mansfield Park

I have recently rediscovered Austen, not having enjoyed her works at all in my youth, and this book is responsible for my different perspective and fresh enjoyment.

It is a darker book and more serious in tone than I had imagined. The protagonist Fanny is far less appealing superficially than many of Austen's other female leads: passive, sickly, dully dutiful and always right, but oddly I grew to like her very much. She is certainly not as attractive and likeable as Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, for example. She is a stoic and endures rather than actually *doing* anything; she is the moral centre while all the other characters are in flux, even her beloved Edmund, who supposedly instilled in her all that is of value. She is not immune to pressures or temptations, but she recognises them for what they are and does not succumb.

It's classic Austen territory with town and country values at odds, while taking a more complex and nuanced approach to her usual themes than other of her works led me to expect.

It was a surprise to me how much I enjoyed the novel, and it has meant that I have begun to revisit her other works. Pride and Prejudice was an awful lot funnier than I remembered it, so there's definitely something to be said for going back to those books that you couldn't get on with first time around. I wonder if it's that I'm older or that I'm reading for my own pleasure rather than for a school or college course?


Steg said...

I studied Mansfield Park for A-level English Literature.

Guaranteed way to take the enjoyment out of it!

Mephitis said...

Yes, I think a lot of interest and life is sucked out of subjects at that stage of school. Or maybe we were just unresponsive teens :).

At uni I enjoyed literature much more but I regret that I never really gave science a shot and never realised how damned exciting it is until the chance for free learning is long gone. Bah!

Anonymous said...

I might give it a punt now you've reviewed it. I never read any Jane Austen. I was supposed to for the Lit of Romantic Love course but I couldn't be bothered, so I winged it - I think the *only* course text I did that with cos I was usually a dutiful student! One of my favourite authors, Edmund Crispin has an amateur sleuth who is an Oxford Don and he *hates* Jane Austen, and when one of the murderers in his books was a big Jane Austen fan and he was caught and destined for hanging, the main character was smug that there would be "one less Janeite in the world" - this was enough for me to believe that Jane Austen has no merit! But I think I should make my own mind up.

I have had a similar renaissance with an author I thought I hated - George Orwell. His dystopian novels put me off trying the rest but his autobiographical books and novels written in the thirties are brilliant, full of wit and humour and interesting observations about life in that era. I recommend him, if you haven't already read them. Abster x

Mephitis said...

I did enjoy them much more than I expected. I haven't read much Orwell, so if I can pick any up I will, ta. :)