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Mansfield Park: the most underappreciated book of all time?

(73 Posts)
paintandbrush Fri 22-Apr-16 09:21:54

Listened to this while painting the kitchen. Large chunks of the middle drag on a bit, but otherwise this is one of my favourite JA novels.

It's such a modern story, it could work well even today: Poor girl from Portsmouth goes to live with better-off family. Life isn't great. She returns, only to realise her father's a filthy old alcoholic, her mother's lazy and there are now a dozen cheeky kids living in squalor. Life is now worse. And then she marries her cousin but let's forget that bit.

I believe MP gets ignored because it's not as 'light' as Austen's other novels iyswim. It really is a work of brilliance though (and deserves its own appreciation thread!)

VictoriaBelle Fri 22-Apr-16 12:23:01

Agree that Mansfield Park can be underappreciated, especially amongst the feistier heroines more beloved of contemporary women, but the deep emotion buried within this passive oppressed girl make for intriguing reading. It's a wonderful story of good triumphing that might be too saccharine, but is tempered by the flaws of the other characters, including the hero (sweet, misguided Edmund)!

Bagatelle1 Fri 22-Apr-16 12:35:30

The story is good but I find Fanny so irritatingly sanctimonious and dull.

The part that doesn't ring true for me is Henry Crawford's proposal - I can't understand what would attract him to her or how he would envisage life with her. She's too retiring to make a good society hostess or manage well as the chatelaine of his estate.

prettylittlething Fri 22-Apr-16 13:58:56

Yeah that was a bit odd, wasn't it? Bad case of Proposal as Plot Device, I suspect.

VictoriaBelle Fri 22-Apr-16 14:13:13

Henry isn't the kinda guy to think ahead too far though, he just goes with his current whim and at the time of his proposal his whim is to shag marry Fanny. Hence his unsuitable elopement with Maria later on. I don't think Austen really did 'plot devices'; to me everything feels very character driven.

I like the symbolism and cleverness of MP with all the theatricals and card games and walks highlighting aspects of character. What I hate about it is Fanny, and the fact that she is the only one of Austen's heroines who gets exactly what she wants by remaining exactly the same (ie insipid, boring and prudish) through the entire novel. There is precisely no character development at all.

I agree with Victoria re Henry. He's following his latest whim and is therefore entirely plausible, but I also think there's a hint that actually it's more than a whim and, had Fanny accepted him, it might, just might, have worked - like Elizabeth and Darcy, each could have tempered the others' flaws and created some sort of balance. She might have steadied him and he might have shaken her about and excited her out of her drippiness. I always think a night or two of hot sex with Henry would have done her a world of good.

And Fanny and Edmind together would be the couple nobody really wants to invite to parties, but everybody feels they have to.

Edmind?! smile

ChessieFL Fri 22-Apr-16 17:48:31

I read this for English Lit A level and hated it. It was so dull! I need to reread it again now and see if my opinion has changed.

HumphreyCobblers Fri 22-Apr-16 17:53:19

This is my most read Austen, but I agree that Fanny is meh and Edmund deeply unsatisfying as a romantic lead.

I love all the other characters, Mrs Norris is a brilliantly annoying character, much better than Elizabeth and Sir Walter in Persuasion. I enjoy the theatricals and Mr Rushworth's pink cloak and two and forty speeches. I think the depressing squalor of Portsmouth is evoked convincingly.

roundtable Fri 22-Apr-16 17:53:58

I don't mind the character of fanny too much - her background would probably make her that way but Edmund is awful. He almost seemed like a version of the young Mr Rochester who would gradually turn Fanny mad and lock her in the attic grin

roundtable Fri 22-Apr-16 17:54:50

Yy to Mrs Norris, she's a great character.

Mr Rushworth = hilarious. Poor chap.

claraschu Fri 22-Apr-16 18:01:34

Maybe Fanny and Edmund are meant to be unlikeable, though. Fanny is actually quite nasty in her thoughts sometimes- a bit vindictive towards Mary Crawford, and generally not very generous of spirit, I think.

I adore Mrs Norris, and also the insipid dreariness of Mansfield Park. The only vaguely likeable characters are the villains. The only fun they all have (the theatricals) happens when they are all being outrageous and immoral.

KeithLeMonde Fri 22-Apr-16 19:41:46

Fanny is actually quite nasty in her thoughts sometimes- a bit vindictive towards Mary Crawford, and generally not very generous of spirit, I think.

^^ This. Fanny is not only a monumental drip but she is also loves to secretly judge everyone else silently while feeling that she and Edmund are far superior to everyone else. That at least is my abiding memory of it - like Chessie I had to read it for A Level and have not chosen to go back to it.

Mrs Norris is brilliant though. And I kind of have Lady Bertram as a role model - it would be lovely to be frightfully rich and lie in bed all day -possibly either drunk or stoned-

KeithLeMonde Fri 22-Apr-16 19:42:57

That should say possibly either drunk or stoned

I thought I was too cool to have to preview my message....

Canyouforgiveher Fri 22-Apr-16 19:48:19

I love this book but Fanny and Edmund are the least inspiring heroine and hero ever. I can't imagine how dreary their married lives must have been. Other than a lack of respect for religion, Mary Crawford is no different in many ways than Lizzie Bennett. And then poor Maria Bertram- ending up in a remote cottage with Mrs Norris for the rest of her life. harsh!

It is most interesting when you look at it as a description of a really dysfunctional family and truly lazy parenting. It is interesting too that Pride and Prejudice deals with some of the same issues- Mr. Bennett is fairly callous about his children and Mrs. Bennett is entirely ineffective.

Anyone remember the film version a few years ago where Mr. Bertram was in the slave trade and a couple of the women ended up in bed together? great stuff.

KeithLeMonde Fri 22-Apr-16 19:59:34

Mr Bertram is in the slave trade, it's in the book and everything.

Canyouforgiveher Fri 22-Apr-16 20:15:02

Is he? I don't remember it being mentioned. Time for a re-read.

Sir Thomas definitely made his money through slavery. I thought that film was an absolute steaming pile of nonsense though - the worst Austen adaptation ever, and that includes the abomination that was Gwyneth Paltrow's 'Emma', Billy flipping Piper as Fanny, and the TV S&S where most of the characters looked like pugs.

Destinysdaughter Fri 22-Apr-16 20:29:51

I did MP for A Level, I remember keys being very symbolic in it for some reason ( sex? )

I had an interview for a literature degree and was asked who my favourite Jane Austen heroine was. I panicked and said Fanny and then had an excruciating interview trying to justify it!

I sometimes think it verges on child abuse, asking teens to study these books when they have practically zero life experience. I've never read it again ( too traumatised ) but I'm sure I'd feel v differently about it now...

HumphreyCobblers Fri 22-Apr-16 20:37:07

I do think about how utterly grim it must have been to be Maria Bertram and live in a secluded cottage in a foreign country, with only Mrs Norris for company. My mind BOGGLES. What a punishment.

Sadik Fri 22-Apr-16 21:18:41

MP is absolutely my favourite JA, and I just don't get the hatred of Fanny Price. She's a shy, timid 9 year old who is taken away from all her family and friends, and sent off to live with total strangers - who make very sure that she's well aware of her low status and insecure position relative to them.
So why does everyone sympathise with Mary Crawford who is the quintessential popular girl at school who doesn't mean badly as such, but doesn't actually think about what her actions mean to other people???
<disclaimer: I may be overthinking this>

Sadik Fri 22-Apr-16 21:20:39

"I sometimes think it verges on child abuse, asking teens to study these books when they have practically zero life experience. I've never read it again ( too traumatised ) but I'm sure I'd feel v differently about it now..."

My mum used to read me Jane Austen, varied with a bit of Anthony Trollope, when she couldn't stand reading children's books any more grin (Then we'd have discussions about which of our neighbours were like which JA character - her theory being that you can find every single one within your social circle)

Not sure people, even the Fanny haters (oh how I enjoyed typing that phrase!), necessarily sympathise with Mary. I don't - I just find her more human than Fanny.

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