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Mansfield Park Mass Market Paperback – April 26, 2005

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Editorial Reviews Review

Though Jane Austen was writing at a time when Gothic potboilers such as Ann Ward Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho and Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto were all the rage, she never got carried away by romance in her own novels. In Austen's ordered world, the passions that ruled Gothic fiction would be horridly out of place; marriage was, first and foremost, a contract, the bedrock of polite society. Certain rules applied to who was eligible and who was not, how one courted and married and what one expected afterwards. To flout these rules was to tear at the basic fabric of society, and the consequences could be terrible. Each of the six novels she completed in her lifetime are, in effect, comic cautionary tales that end happily for those characters who play by the rules and badly for those who don't. In Mansfield Park, for example, Austen gives us Fanny Price, a poor young woman who has grown up in her wealthy relatives' household without ever being accepted as an equal. The only one who has truly been kind to Fanny is Edmund Bertram, the younger of the family's two sons.

Into this Cinderella existence comes Henry Crawford and his sister, Mary, who are visiting relatives in the neighborhood. Soon Mansfield Park is given over to all kinds of gaiety, including a daring interlude spent dabbling in theatricals. Young Edmund is smitten with Mary, and Henry Crawford woos Fanny. Yet these two charming, gifted, and attractive siblings gradually reveal themselves to be lacking in one essential Austenian quality: principle. Without good principles to temper passion, the results can be disastrous, and indeed, Mansfield Park is rife with adultery, betrayal, social ruin, and ruptured friendships. But this is a comedy, after all, so there is also a requisite happy ending and plenty of Austen's patented gentle satire along the way. Describing the switch in Edmund's affections from Mary to Fanny, she writes: "I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that everyone may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people." What does not vary is the pleasure with which new generations come to Jane Austen. --Alix Wilber

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up-Jane Austen paints some witty and perceptive studies of character.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Signet Classics (June 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451526295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451526298
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (356 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,686,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Though the domain of Jane Austen's novels was as circumscribed as her life, her caustic wit and keen observation made her the equal of the greatest novelists in any language. Born the seventh child of the rector of Steventon, Hampshire, on December 16, 1775, she was educated mainly at home. At an early age she began writing sketches and satires of popular novels for her family's entertainment. As a clergyman's daughter from a well-connected family, she had an ample opportunity to study the habits of the middle class, the gentry, and the aristocracy. At twenty-one, she began a novel called "The First Impressions" an early version of Pride and Prejudice. In 1801, on her father's retirement, the family moved to the fashionable resort of Bath. Two years later she sold the first version of Northanger Abby to a London publisher, but the first of her novels to appear was Sense and Sensibility, published at her own expense in 1811. It was followed by Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815). After her father died in 1805, the family first moved to Southampton then to Chawton Cottage in Hampshire. Despite this relative retirement, Jane Austen was still in touch with a wider world, mainly through her brothers; one had become a very rich country gentleman, another a London banker, and two were naval officers. Though her many novels were published anonymously, she had many early and devoted readers, among them the Prince Regent and Sir Walter Scott. In 1816, in declining health, Austen wrote Persuasion and revised Northanger Abby, Her last work, Sandition, was left unfinished at her death on July 18, 1817. She was buried in Winchester Cathedral. Austen's identity as an author was announced to the world posthumously by her brother Henry, who supervised the publication of Northanger Abby and Persuasion in 1818.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

103 of 105 people found the following review helpful By N. Gargano VINE VOICE on July 10, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am a new reader of Jane Austen and after reading the other reviews of this book, I was a little scared to read this one so I saved it for last. I was so surprised how much I liked it. Fanny, the main character, is someone I could relate to in ways that many other readers apparently have not been able to. Unless you grow up in a home where you are made to feel unwanted, and have a Mrs. Norris as an aunt in Fanny's case or a stepmom in my case, it would be hard to understand Fanny. Take it from me,the character is very real in many ways and not the wimp or doormat that many other reviewers find her. Alot of people said this book of Jane Austen's is her deepest because of the social issues she tackles. I will have to read it again to pick up on more of that, I was so busy focusing on Fanny's situation and understanding her feelings, knowing how her situation affected her responses, that I missed things. I look forward to reading it again. I think others will enjoy it too,don't be put off by the other reviewers. Of course, I look forward to rereading all my Jane Austens.
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150 of 156 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Simmons on September 18, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Mansfield Park" has always been Jane Austen's most controversial novel.
The heroine of the book is Fanny Price, a powerless and socially marginal young woman. To almost everyone she knows, she barely exists. As a child, she is sent to live with the family of her wealthy uncle. Her parents give her up without regret, and her uncle only takes her in because he is deceived into doing so. Fanny's wealthy relations, when they deign to notice her at all, generally do so only to make sure she knows of her inferiority and keeps in her place. Fanny is thus almost completely alone, the only kindness she receives coming from her cousin Edmund. Forced by circumstances to be an observer, Fanny is a faultlessly acute one, as well as the owner of a moral compass that always points true north.
Those who dislike "Mansfield Park" almost invariably cite Fanny as the novel's central fault. She is generally accused of being two things: (1) too passive, and (2) too moral.
The charge of passivity is perplexing. Surely it is evident that for her to challenge those in power over her is extremely dangerous - in fact, when she finally does challenge them, on a matter of the greatest importance to her and of next to no importance to them, she is swiftly reminded of the weakness of her situation by being deported back to the impoverished family of her parents, who receive her with indifference.
The charge of morality is easier to understand - many readers feel themselves being silently accused by Fanny, and they don't like it. The interesting thing is that those same readers often enjoy "Pride and Prejudice", even though it is evident that the same moral standards are in place in both books. So, why do readers feel the prick of criticism in one and not the other?
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83 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
After having read (and loved) Jane Austen's more famous novels EMMA and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, I found MANSFIELD PARK a true delight. Fanny Price is taken in by her wealthy aunt and uncle as charity to her more lowly-married mother, and is raised with her cousins with the idea she needs refinement and education to become as good a woman as her lesser social standing will allow. Fanny is nervous and self-effacing, struggling with her new situation until her cousin Edmund makes her feel more at home. Gradually, she feels like a part of the family, although the nagging sense of unworthiness always asserts itself. As cousins marry and suitors appear, as scandals arise and emotions become known, Fanny finds herself in the equivalent of a Victorian soap opera.

Fanny is undoubtedly one of Austen's less assertive characters, although she does mature into a woman who knows what she wants and will accept no less. I loved Fanny and her honesty, the little girl who fears the stars in her eyes and still manages to grow up into a respectable - and respected - woman. Her complexities are subtle and understated, making the reader work at times to understand her motivation, although anyone who has felt like an outcast even once, or anyone who respects honesty, will identify with her. In true Austen fashion, the observations are witty, with pointed social analysis and cynicism dressed up in sly humor. Fanny's aunts in particular are skewered, but no one, not even Fanny, is spared.

Readers picking up this novel for the sheer delight of it will find it difficult to put down, as its language is accessible and free-flowing.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Fisher TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
Out of all Jane Austen's wonderful novels "Mansfield Park" is perhaps her most widely-debated. With a heroine who triumphs through her utter passivity, uncomfortable themes of familial power and corruption, and sub-text on slavery, it is rightfully described as "Austen's most complex and profound *and* her least likeable novel." As well as this is Austen's own declaration that "Mansfield Park" was her favourite work. To say it is unique is an understatement.

Fanny Price is only a child when she is sent from her impoverished home to live with her aunt at the grand Mansfield Park. A quiet child, Fanny is overwhelmed by her wealthy and privileged family and is painfully homesick - a condition that the Bertrams cannot possibly understand. Hasn't she been removed from a life of near-squalor and no prospects? But the noble-yet-cold Sir Thomas Bertram, his child-like wife Lady Bertram, his self-centred eldest son Tom and his daughters Maria and Julia are not cruel to Fanny in the way that the evil step-family was cruel to Cinderella - simply misguided and so removed from her situation as to not understand the first thing about her. But from her second aunt, the loathsome Mrs Norris, Fanny receives only criticism and thinly-veiled scorn. Only the youngest son Edmund, with ambitions to become a quiet country clergyman, shows genuine compassion and sympathy to her, and soon the cousins are as close as siblings.

Fanny grows into a young woman, but keeps her timidity - which hides a bright mind and a clear sense of right and wrong. From London come the glamorous Crawford siblings - the rakish Henry Crawford who shamelessly flirts with Maria, even though she is engaged to one Mr Rushmore, and the witty Mary Crawford, who soon captivates Edmund.
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