3.10.2011

Booking It :: Mansfield Park and Thoughts on Jane Austen


Another month, another book. I know I read more books last year, but then, last year I wasn't working at a job outside of our home. This year I am and let me tell you, my free time for reading has been drastically reduced. However, I figure that if a mom of six who is also homeschooling can find 30 minutes a day to read, then so can I! This month I read the "assigned" reading - which was actually a re-read of my favorite Jane Austen novel, Mansfield Park.


Not only is this my favorite Austen book, it's also quite possibly my favorite Austen novel-turned-film. It's really a toss up though because I'm one of those strange people who usually like the books far better than the movies - with the exception of Austen. I think Jane was born to write screen plays because her books really come to life on film. The wittiness and subtle humor in her books are enhanced in the various movie versions of her stories. 

What lover of Austen can honestly dislike watching Elizabeth Bennett fall for Mr. Darcy in the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice? And need I remind you of the excellent adaptation of Sense and Sensibility that Emma Thompson brought to the big screen and for which she eventually won a Golden Globe (her acceptance speech was the best!)? Everyone has opinions on which version of Emma they like the best or whether they prefer the big-screen versions or made-for-TV films, but in the end I think we would all agree that Jane Austen's 19th century novels are still as enjoyable today as they were when she first wrote them (and decidedly more popular now!). Disclaimer: the 1999 version of Mansfield Park {click title for Amazon link} to which I refer does take liberties with the book, and Fanny isn't the meek and mild girl of Austen's novel. There is also one partial nudity scene, so consider yourself warned.

I'm sure you're saying, "alright already - get on with your review of the book and forget Austen and the movies!" - sorry about the tangent. But I hardly think you can discuss her books without a nod to their various theatrical versions and, indeed, Jane Austen's genius. But moving on...let me share two things about Mansfield Park which I love each and every time I read it (or see the film).


First of all, she is funny - seriously funny - and some of the lines in Mansfield Park actually cause me to laugh out loud. Need an example? How about this section in which Maria's feelings towards her upcoming marriage are laid out and then the wedding is described:

"In all the important preparations of the mind she was complete; being prepared for matrimony by an hatred of home, restraint, and tranquillity; by the misery of disappointed affection and contempt of the man she was to marry. [...] The bride was elegantly dressed - the two bridesmaids were duly inferior - her father gave her away - her mother stood with salts in her hand expecting to be agitated - her aunt tried to cry [...] Nothing could be objected to when it came under the discussion of the neighbourhood, except that the carriage which conveyed the bride and bridegroom and Julia, from the church door to Sotherton, was the same chaise which Mr. Rushworth had used for a twelvemonth before. In everything else the etiquette of the day might stand the strictest investigation." {pg. 169-170}

She was so far ahead of her time in her thoughts and her brutal honesty and bluntness. I love how she writes what everyone knew to be true when it came to arranging a marriage with a man of fortune. Marry for money if you had no access to a fortune of your own. But if you think about it, most (if not all) of her female characters get to marry for love and and upturn of fortune. Convenient, eh? Like the character of Fanny, I believe that Jane Austen was an observer of human nature and where others were blinded by wealth and consequence, Austen saw the flaws beneath the surface and she created characters with these very real-life defects, but in a humorous way. 

For example, although Sir Thomas sees Mrs. Norris in a good light for many years, her "helpful" exterior is slowly stripped away until he begins to regard her as "an hourly evil" - whereas Fanny had see the true Aunt Norris almost from the instant she arrived at Mansfield. Meanwhile, we also discover that Sir Thomas actually improves and softens with time and Fanny has, herself, misjudged him and his dislike of her. Austen's clarity in seeing (and writing about) people's character is just one of the reasons I love her books (and the movies as well).

The second thing I love about Austen (and Mansfield Park is no exception): her books have happy endings -very unlike real life many times. Again, this is my own personal taste, but I don't want to read art (in this case, art = novels) that imitates life. I enjoy seeing the girl get the guy (or the guy get the girl) who is best for her/him. Mr. Knightly for Emma - Elizabeth for Mr. Darcy - Edmund for Fanny. Even though throughout the book you probably want to throttle Edmund for being so blinded by his infatuation with Miss Crawford, in the end Jane makes everything right. Truth wins out. Sweet Fanny gets the respect she should have had for all her years of service and a husband who loves and appreciates her. I love stories that cause me to sigh when I close the back cover of the book. Mansfield Park is definitely sigh-worthy.

And with that I'll wrap it up. What did you think about Mansfield Park? If you want to read other's opinions about the book, make sure you check out the Life as MOM Booking It 2011 post today and see what others are saying about one of my favorite books. Thanks for visiting and Happy Reading!

12 comments:

  1. I love Jane Austen...and am recently acquainted with Mansfield Park (last year or so). I liked it! The one I don't "get" is Northanger Abbey. I had 2 people tell me it is their favorite Austen and I couldn't get into it...felt like nothing ever really happened. Considering watching, then trying to read again.

    Lisa

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  2. I haven't read Mansfield Park, but I also tend to enjoy Austen more on film. I've read three of her books for class, and while I enjoyed Persuasion a lot and Emma a reasonable amount, Sense and Sensibility left me cold.

    I do love the film of Mansfield Park (you're talking about the liberty-taking one with Frances O'Connor right? I loved that).

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  3. I am the "happily ever after" girl as well. I long for that, in real life too!

    Yes, Jane Austen's books have made me laugh out loud! As for the movie adaptations, the first time I watched P&P, I'd felt like I'd lived the love story with Elizabeth (maybe because it was so lengthy?)

    But I also liked all the other movies, Emma, being my favorite.

    Anyway, you've convinced me, it's next on my list! :)

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  4. Oh, now I have to watch the movie. I liked Mansfield Park too

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  5. I really enjoyed this book, too, and I usually enjoy books far more than their movies. (That's why I try to watch movies before I read the book.) You can check out my review, if you're interested.
    http://nikkis-notes.blogspot.com/2011/03/blogging-it-march-edition-i-mansfield.html

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  6. Love, love, love your book reviews. I've never read Mansfield Park *gasp* and am not the hugest fan of Austen *double gasp* but your unabashed pure love and enticing review make me want to give it a try. :)

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  7. Austen is just so good...her observations on her characters' foibles are just delightful. Now, I am going to HAVE to watch the movie...which version?

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  8. Hello everyone! I've put an updated "Disclaimer" in the post about the movie that I reference. Please see that for more information. Thanks for reading!

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  9. I love your review! I too heart Jane Austen :) I love mansfield park (though persuasion and P&P will always have a tie for my favorites), BUT the 90's movie adaptation was such a let down. All the stuff they added about slavery, all the sassy attitude of Fanny, the totally unnecessary nudity, I felt like they missed the spirit of the book. Though I will say the ending is MUCH better in the movie than in the book...it feels like the book just abruptly ends.

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  10. I like your observation that Jane Austen was born to write screen plays. I don't usually enjoy the movie versions of my favorite books, but Austen's are an exception. They make great movies.

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  11. Loved your background on Jane! I have only seen Emma with Gwenyth and the two P&P's, so I didn't know which Mansfield Park to watch. Also had never seen that clip of Emma Thompson. Thanks for reading with me!

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  12. I'm just doing a little bloghopping-and landing on several new to me blogs, yours being one of them

    I am reading Mansfield Park right now (my first time.) It's funny that that was the book of the month!

    Your review was thoroughly entertaining, and informative!

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