I decided to join with Jessica at Life as Mom this month as she read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I love reading Jane Austen, and I forget how much until I read one of her books. I had read this one before, but I knew I would enjoy it again.
For those of you who haven't read this novel, Mansfield Park tells the story of poor Fanny Price who is sent to live with her rich uncle and his family. One of the sons and both daughters are used to doing and getting what they want without regard to others. There is an ill-advised play to be acted out in their home (while the father is away). Both daughters fall for the same man who leads them on without returning their feelings. The older son isn't in the book much because he's off partying and spending money. The second son, the wisest of the bunch, falls in love with a woman whose faults he cannot see. Meanwhile, Fanny quietly does the right thing and tries to advise the others to do the same. When things fall apart in the family, Fanny is there to help pick up the pieces.
I have to admit that Fanny is not my favorite Austen heroine. She comes across as weak and insipid, even though she really doesn't have any other choice. As I think about it, however, none of Austen's heroines are perfect: Lizzy is too strong-willed and independent; Eleanor is too, well, prudent; Emma is a busybody; and Anne allowed herself to be persuaded against a suitable match. Since none of us in the real world are perfect, either, I guess that's not such a bad thing. (I read a book once that had perfect people in it, and it wasn't any fun to read.)
I really enjoyed the humor and sarcasm in this book. Here is an example:
To the education of her daughters, Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had not time for such cares. She was a woman who spent her days in sitting nicely dressed on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework.... Had she possessed greater leisure for the service of her girls, she would probably have supposed it unnecessary, for they were under the care of a governess, with proper masters, and could want nothing more.
And the many descriptions of the character's aggravation with others' selfishness while not noticing their own made me laugh. Portraying the hypocrisy of the upper class is one of the best parts of Austen's books.
If you haven't read anything by Jane Austen, I encourage you to pick one of her books up. If you don't care for Austen, well, I think something is wrong with you! (Just kidding! To each his own!)
To see what others have to say about Mansfield Park, head over to Life as Mom.