I am finally finished Mansfield Park. I shouldn't say "finally" like it is a bad thing. I enjoyed Mansfield Park, it just took me longer to read than other books. I was eager for the ending, because I have come to know Jane Austen and I knew in this story, it would be the unrequited love fulfilled. Though, I was eager for the ending, I loved the beginning and middle too. I found it all very interesting. How could one sister have 10 children, another have only 4 and the third have none? (I know how someone could have no children, it was more the 10 to 4 thing.) It sparked an interesting discussion with my husband. Fanny Price's mother had more children than she knew what to do with. Her sister, Lady Bertram, married much more advantageously, and offered to take one of the children. Mrs. Price assumed it would be their oldest boy, William, but instead the sister asked for the oldest girl, Fanny. Mrs. Price, who favours the boys over the girls, was surprised, but sent her off; one less mouth to feed. I think it was kind what Sir Thomas did for his wife's relations. Fanny and William are much better off for having such an uncle, who showed them this kindness, as the Bertrams did help William also. It is Mrs. Norris, the childless sister, who drove me crazy, as I think she was supposed to do. She was so awful to Fanny and I'm glad Sir Thomas finally saw her true colours.
I was really hoping for a little more build up to Fanny and Edmund. I've read the other five main Austen novels and there is always some kind of movement, moments, before we get the final couple. Not with Fanny and Edmund. Instead, it felt as though the Crawfords would get paired, as so much of the novel was spent on those relationships. Thinking back on it, maybe Austen was making sure that we knew how unsuitable these relationships would be. For a minute, I thought Fanny would soften towards Crawford, just enough so that his betrayal would hurt her more, but nope. She was a rigid heroine. I liked her though. I feel like Fanny had a real sense of who was around her and how they all really felt towards her and each other.
I hated Mary Crawford. She was so insipid. She played at friendship. I feel like I've known people like her, who don't make a choice exactly, yet spin things in their favour, but it is something in them that has thoroughly skewed their judgment and they just don't see that they are wrong. I felt a little bad for the Bertram sisters, too much ruled by emotion and not enough by rational though. Crawford was a cad, he was Wickham and Willoughby, but worse. He was an awful "flirt", though I do think he had genuine affection for Fanny. Crawford lacked patience. If he had waited, he (and his sister) might have ended up with the people they desired. I still wish that everyone, especially Edmund could have, could have seen what Fanny saw.
I know Mansfield Park is Austen's least popular and regarded as her most difficult novel (probably why it's the least popular.) It definitely lacked some of the romance and lovable, relateable characters that fill her other books, but the story, the view of English society, was fantastic. I know I was hesitant to read Mansfield Park and it certainly took me a little while to finish it, but it was fantastic and definitely a book I will re-read one day.
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