Customer Review

79 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Austen's best, but still wonderful, June 18, 2004
This review is from: Mansfield Park (Penguin Classics) (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. Students and book club members who must pay closer attention to themes and other literary issues may want to consider the role social standing and money play; the evolution of Fanny's character (and whether she is sympathetic); the techniques Austen uses to evoke humor; and the courtship protocol for Victorian England and how the characters both work within, and violate, the social rules.

I highly recommend this book for teenagers and adults alike, especially those whose literary tastes run toward the classics.
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Review Details

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4.1 out of 5 stars (326 customer reviews)
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Reviewer

Debbie Lee Wesselmann
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (2008 HOLIDAY TEAM)   

Location: the Lehigh Valley, PA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 68