Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - Book Review

Continuing on the PBS Special "Sundays With Jane":

Well, this is a difficult one. As far as the writing goes, Mansfield Park is probably one of the best of Austen’s efforts. As far as the story goes, it is hard to like a novel when you cannot stand the protagonist, especially when you are not MEANT to dislike her.

Fanny Price is starchy and self-deprecating. There were moments when her self-loathing was entirely too much. Her failure to accept even a portion of a compliment was no virtue. Her quietness became a tactless undertone of disapproval and I began to find her manners lacking.

I am also weary of the tidily resolved ending and on this score, Austen goes even further by writing the final chapter as postscript. While criticism of Austen’s contrived endings are nothing new, it must also be considered that she was a woman writing in an era of suppression and that the era itself was pedantic. However, I’m big on endings, to the point of dismissing an entire and well-enjoyed novel if the ending lacks, so perhaps I am not the best judge here.

The Masterpiece Theatre rendition of Mansfield Park was even more intolerable than the novel. Not only was the story so completely rushed as to lose all character identity, but the rendition also ignored huge chunks of story, important to plot development. The grand subtlety and nuance of Austen’s prose is easily misplaced in even the best visual interpretations of her works, but this one offered not even the slightest subtle plot build-up.

I’m half through with Emma and can assure that Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility have no worry of being usurped from my top Austen picks.

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