Friday, July 31, 2009

Mansfield Park

The title: Mansfield Park
The author: Jane Austen
Publication: Crown, 1981 (org. 1814)
Got it from: Mom, Easter 1996

I finished this novel many moons ago, but have put off posting my review because, honestly...meh. I didn't really enjoy this book at all. I know it's popular to jump on the let's-hate-Mansfield Park bandwagon, but I'm going to do it anyway.

This book is so unlike Austen's others, it's almost as if it's written by a different person. In fact, if I had to read it without knowing the author, I'd have said it was written by one of the Brontes. I hate the Brontes. Here is the summation of the plot: mousy heroine goes to live with rich relatives, and everyone treats her like s--t. Her cousin Edmund is kind of nice to her, but acts like an idiot the entire plot because he is lust with an Evil Harlot. Everyone treats heroine like s--t for awhile, and then one nice thing happens to her, and then people treat her like s--t again. Every character acts immorally except for her, they all get their comeuppance, and the heroine finally gets her man fifty scrillion pages later. The End.

The book started out slowly and didn't get much better. Each character (all fifty) is introduced within the first few chapters, leading my head to spin and my mind to go, "wait, who now?" Also, there's pages of nothing but dialogue where the reader has no clue which of the ten people in the room is speaking.

Perhaps this wouldn't have bothered me to much if I had cared more about the main characters, but I thought they needed a good smacking like everyone else in this book. I felt equal parts exasperation and pity for Fanny, who certainly endures her share of abuse. I also think she has low self-esteem issues and needs to see a psychologist immediately. Edmund was the worse hero of a quasi-romance I've ever read. Even Heathcliff, my most loathed hero(?) ever, showed his passion for Catherine. All Edmund did was jerk Fanny around, spout about piety and waste his time dithering about Mary Crawford. In the end, all I could feel was revulsion over the thought of marrying such a weak man. (It didn't help that I was simultaneously watching the '99 version of Mansfield Park, where Edmund is played by Jonny Lee Miller, who I can't stand either. The movie is dreadful, by the way.)

I get the social commentary Jane Austen was trying to make here, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Mean people + dull conversation does not a good book make. I wanted to spork my eyes out when one character spent an entire chapter blathering on about the renovations he wanted to do to his estate. I think I fell asleep about ten times reading this book in the sun room and once used it to cure late-night insomnia. I would have chucked it early on if I hadn't been determined to do this Austen project.

Thank heavens Emma is next. I need an eye bath to wash the acid out. It burns! It burns!


Vic said...

Hi! Congratulations for winning a free copy of The Grand Sophy. Please visit our blog, Jane Austen Today, contact us, and give us your mailing address so that Source Books can send you a copy.

RE: Mansfield Park, I felt the same way you did until I listened to an audio version of the book. The characters come alive when the story is told, and I found that I began to like it quite well.

Have a great day - Vic

KJH said...