Read and reviewed in March, 2004. Sent to another Bookcrosser
I did enjoy Mansfield Park. I found Jane Austen a little hard to "get into." I have enjoyed all her books that I have read, but for most* it takes perseverance to begin to get interested in the characters, and to deal with the long, convoluted sentences. Sometimes I found myself having to re-read more than once; I would lose the meaning, and forget who was talking to whom!
Fanny Price was the poor relation taken in by the wealthy and influential Bertram family, but she was not considered socially equal to her cousins. She was treated little better than a servant. However, when tragedy came to the family by the errors and waywardness of their own offspring, it was Fanny who was the comfort and hope of them all.
*********WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS**********************
While a classic of the early 19th century, I found this book dealt with themes which are very current, and at the same time, very ancient - the themes of poverty and wealth, of morality and worldliness. Fanny and Edmund and Sir Thomas stood for moral principles and old-fashioned righteousness. Lady Bertram and Tom, in different ways, represented indolence, laziness, and wanton selfishness. Mrs. Norris was almost the comic relief; she was the always interfering busy-body. Henry and Mary introduced an almost modern disregard for moral uprightness. They would have been comfortable in our post-modern era following the "sexual revolution" of the 1960's and '70's. Fanny's birthfamily brought a whole new class of people to Jane Austen's usual world of upper class nobility; the lower middle class. They were a noisy, rough household with a drinking, swearing father, too many children yelling and running all over, and a mother overwhelmed and unable to keep order, or even keep up with her duties.
*Pride and Prejudice is the exception. It was the first Jane Austen novel I read, and I was engaged from the first paragraph!