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Mansfield Park (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 29, 2003
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"Never did any novelist make more use of an impeccable sense of human values."
About the Author
Jane Austen (1775-1817) was extremely modest about her own genius but has become one of English literature's most famous women writers. She is also the author of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey.
Kathryn Sutherland is a reader in English at St Anne's College, Oxford.
Tony Tanner was a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and Professor of English and American Literature at the University of Cambridge.
Top customer reviews
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The Final Verdict:
While notoriously difficult to read because of it's age, the built in humor and slights will keep even an impatient reader entertained. This is as good a place to start as any if you're looking to read up on some classics.
To greatly oversimplify, the story begins with naive, 17-year-old Catherine Morland's visit to Bath where family friends introduce her into society. At a dance she meets young Henry Tilney and his sister, and later John Thorpe and his sister. After some time spent sightseeing, everyone getting to know each other better, and some romantic attractions developing, the book shifts noticeably in style -- and Catherine visits the upperclass Tilneys of Northanger Abbey. Catherine has a predilection for reading popular Gothic novels; she also possesses an over-active imagination. Thus influenced, she perceives her girlfriend's estate to be as mysterious as any encountered in her reading. There is even a possible Gothic villain, that being her girlfriend's father, General Tilney, whom Catherine suspects of having killed or imprisoned his wife! Catherine's investigation hinders her relations with the family, especially her budding romance with Henry. This deteriorates even further when General Tilney discovers Catherine's social status is not all that he had been led to believe it was. But like all Austen novels, by story's end everything gets happily worked out, appropriate love-matches are made, and a wiser Catherine gains some keen insights into herself and human nature. It's all highly entertaining with a few laughs, a few chills, and a few sighs along the way.
Austen initially wrote this as a satire on the popularity of the lurid Gothic novels of her day (with their seemingly haunted settings, ruined castles, secret passages, dungeons, and diabolical evil-doers), but by the time it was finally published (after her death), that craze had substantially subsided and it was no longer cutting-edge. Still, the story remains witty and entertaining throughout.
The nine Gothic novels to which Austen had Catherine refer were not made up; they really do exist. In fact, for those who are interested, they may be found in the Kindle Store gathered in an excellent ebook collection by Di Lernia Publishers titled THE COMPLETE NORTHANGER HORRID NOVEL COLLECTION for the incredibly low price of only $.99. In it are THE CASTLE OF WOLFENBACH, THE NECROMANCER, THE MYSTERIOUS WARNING, HORRID MYSTERIES, CLERMONT, THE MIDNIGHT BELL, ORPHAN OF THE RHINE, THE MYSTERY OF UDOLPHO, and THE ITALIAN; the last two, by Ann Radcliffe, are superior to the others and are still widely read. By reading one or more of those thrillers, you will gain some insights into Catherine's mindset and better appreciate what Austen was being satirical of.
Although this Open Road edition is quite fine, NORTHANGER ABBEY is available for free in the Kindle Store in a public domain edition, as are all of Austen's works. Low-priced, complete collections may also be purchased in the Kindle Store, my favorite being a particularly handsome, illustrated, and nicely-formatted ebook set by Palmera Publishing selling for $1.99 (the same price Open Road is currently charging for this one book alone). That edition provides EVERYTHING she ever wrote, and I highly recommend it.
If you are not a reader like I am, the language itself will be difficult. Overall I just felt that the book, the characters, the language and tone were just in no way compatible with what I am or enjoy. The characters are highly gossipy, and being a very passive friend when it comes to other people’s personal feelings and interests, I felt very distant from the motives of the characters. Though the friends I read it with enjoyed it, we still could not finish it. We read about half way through, but we all could not bear the unorganized events and the confusing relationships.
It was not an awful book. The language was beautiful and Jane Austen succeeded in her intended goal to make a main female character in which she only liked. Maybe to someone who can personally relate to the characters in the story, there will be a more positive review, but it was just a very specific style I could not roll with. Entertaining at times, but not something I could be invested in.