Update: Ron mentioned to me that this post contains plot spoilers, and I want to make sure you are forewarned. So there, you’re forewarned.
I could call this the summer of Austen and Harry. What a contrast! And yet both delightful and hard to put down. I enjoyed Mansfield Park, and was glad to find that after reading most of Austen’s works, she can still surprise me.
I thought for sure that when Henry proposed to Fanny, Edmund would realize he was in love with her. Wrong! Edmund was all for the match, and though he understood Fanny’s reluctance to get engaged to a man she didn’t love, he assumes she will change her mind. First surprise.
Second surprise: when it seems that Henry’s character had truly changed, and Fanny seemed to be softening toward him, I thought maybe Henry would have a true transformation of the heart and Fanny would end up in love with him. Wrong again! Henry ran off with Fanny’s married cousin, Maria.
I loved reading about Fanny as a character, but I’m not sure that I would like to know her. She would make anyone’s character look bad by comparison! She has unending patience and devotion to her Aunt Bertram, who basically treats her like she was raised to give her someone to pour tea, partner her at cards, and fix the snarls in her handiwork. Fanny never loses her patience with Mrs. Norris, her other aunt – and I’m sure I would’ve punched her in the nose! Fanny holds her tongue when Edmund is determined to marry Mary Crawford, the most shallow, self-centered woman he could find. And she stays at her biological family’s home for far longer than I could’ve lasted – given her drunken, swearing father and obnoxious younger brothers. I definitely have found the Austen character I am the most unlike!
I gave this book 4 and a half stars, although I have given all of Austen’s other works five. At the end of the book, she stops showing us things and tells us how everything turns out. After Maria’s disappearance with Henry and Julia’s elopement with Mr. Yates, the final chapter is a “this is how things turned out” narrative. I was disappointed – I would have liked to read how Edmund and Fanny’s love story played out, I wanted to read the scene where he realizes his love for her and she confesses that she had loved him all along. Instead, we are told that he realizes his love, they get engaged, his father approves, they get married, and Fanny’s sister Susan takes Fanny’s place as a companion to her Aunt Bertram – but none of these scenes are actually described, none of the dialogue written. It almost feels like Austen thought the book was getting too long and she better wrap things up. It was still a very enjoyable read, though.