I absolutely love Jane Austen. Her characters and plot lines are beautiful and personal reflections of the society she lived in, in the early 19th century. The majority of her female characters are strong and outspoken, which differs from the expectations of female behaviour in that time period. I have really enjoyed previously reading Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion and wished to read more Austen in the future. That’s why when I saw a copy Mansfield Park in a second-hand bookshop, I just knew I had to buy it.
This book tells the story of a young working class girl called Fanny Price who is sent to live with her rich Aunt and Uncle, and their children, at Mansfield Park. Fanny experiences all the societal differences people expect of her because she is a working class person in a middle class way of life. This causes many problems in the way Fanny fits in and often leaves her feeling isolated and alone.
I was excited to read Mansfield Park because despite some of the other Austen novels I didn’t really know anything about this one. I quickly began to understand the differences between Fanny Price, the book’s protagonist, and other protagonists in the other novels. Fanny Price is timid and shy but so thoughtful and mature in her reflections of the events going on around her. Fanny Price really is the yin to Elizabeth Bennet’s yang.
Another difference to the other Jane Austen novels I have read is that the events of the story are not just told through the eyes of Fanny but from all the main characters. This allows the reader to view hidden conversations that Fanny either should not know about or is just oblivious to it entirely. It allows for some clever dramatic irony and gives the reader a variety of opinions on each particular event. This means the reader gets a less skewed view of the story than they would from Pride and Prejudice, caused by Elizabeth’s judgement and strong opinions.
The main themes explored in Mansfield Park are societal classes, love and marriage, and family relationships. Without giving any of the plot away, I will say that I was impressed with the way that Jane Austen includes events with these themes that would not have been seen in other books at that time period. Some are controversial even now, let alone in the early 19th century when reputation and the correct company meant everything.
It is these unique features that Mansfield Park present compared to other books by Austen or even in the 19th century in general that makes it such an interesting read.
After reading Mansfield Park, I watched the YouTube modern day adaptation called From Mansfield With Love. There are 100 episodes between 5 and 15 minutes long that create a modern day setting for the events of the book told by Frankie Price (a 21st century Fanny Price) through fictional vlogs on YouTube. I strongly recommend watching this series after reading the book. Or if you struggle with reading classics, even before. They stick very well with the book characters and the main plot lines however some details are changed to make it more appropriate to modern day England.
Mansfield Park is a good book to read if you fancy a change from the obvious headstrong character and prefer a quiet but strong minded protagonist.