Review of ‘Mansfield Park’ by Jane Austen

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this re-read of Jane Austen’s third published novel. I’d only read it once before and didn’t remember anything about the story, so it was like reading the book for the first time.

The novel follows the complexities of social life focused on Mansfield Park, a manor house in Northamptonshire. Our protagonist is Fanny Price, modest but likeable, who is taken from her relatively poor household in Portsmouth and brought up by her uncle. The first few chapters are not very interesting, as they describe the background to all of this, but once the story properly gets going, it’s engrossing. Fanny is generally ignored by the family, except for her cousin Edmund, who is about to join the clergy. As she grows up, she begins to have romantic feelings for him, but these are never expressed. She has to watch him fall in love with Mary Crawford, a relative of their neighbour, who along with her flirty brother Henry, works her way into the household. There are several twists and turns in the story, one of them very shocking indeed for Austen’s time. I noted that the cast of characters and range of themes are unusually varied for an Austen novel.

I found the last chapter a real anti-climax. Instead of a tense, dialogue-heavy scene in which Edmund proposes, there’s a rather passionless description of how he realises he loves his cousin more than in a brotherly way and that she’s happy about it. It was a missed opportunity. Imagine eating your main course while anticipating a satisfying dessert and then when the dessert arrives, it’s in the form of a pill. You’ve completed the meal but you remain unsatisfied.

I prefer this book to Persuasion but I would rate Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey higher.

First published in 1814. This edition is by Oxford World’s Classics (2008 reissue), edited by James Kinsley, with introduction and notes by Jane Stabler.

 

13 thoughts on “Review of ‘Mansfield Park’ by Jane Austen”

  1. Mansfield Park is my least-loved Jane Austen novel, but I am due for a re-read soon and hope to like it better then. How would you have ended the story? A triangle, were Edmund wins out? Or Fanny become ill and him suddenly realise he loved her? Or something else?

    1. Maybe you’ll like it better on re-reading πŸ™‚ I’m not keen on romances between cousins even though I know it was more common back then. I don’t think I’d actually change the ending however, just make it more dramatic and have some dialogue! It has to end relatively happily or it’s not Austen πŸ˜‰

  2. I do enjoy this book (but I’m definitely biased when it comes to Austen πŸ˜‚), however I agree that other texts of hers are much better, like you say the ending does let it down a bit. Enjoyed reading your thoughts 😊

    1. I’m sure I’ll re-read it in a few years πŸ™‚ not a favourite though. Thanks πŸ˜€

    1. I’m glad I re-read it! All I have left to re-read are P & P and Emma (the ones I’m most familiar with) and I’ll have completed them.

  3. I think this is one of my least favourite Austens and to be honest, I don’t remember too much details. At some point I will definitely reread. Even a mediocre Austen is normally quite enjoyable!

    1. I don’t think I liked it much the first time round, glad I gave it another go! πŸ˜€ I’m not convinced it could be anyone’s favourite Austen however.

  4. Great review! I especially love your desert analogy at the end! I haven’t read all of Jane Austen’s books but I have heard several people say that some of them can be anticlimactic.

    1. Thanks! The dessert thing was an inspired moment! I think if her books had been written today, the endings would be different and more surprising.

  5. Shhhh I haven’t read any of AUsten’s books…*Gasp* Maybe I should correct that! From your recommendation, maybe I should start with Sense & Sensibility? Your dessert –> pill comment made me LOL!! Gosh what an anti climax right! πŸ˜€

    1. Austen isn’t everyone’s cup of tea πŸ™‚ but if you wanted to try one of her books, I would suggest Northanger Abbey. I suppose I’m too used to seeing dramatic endings on TV for period dramas, which makes the book seem more disappointing by comparison.

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