Monday, August 10, 2009

Mansfield Park Revisited (Everthing Austen Challenge 2)

Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment by Joan Aiken.

This book was my second Everything Austen Challenge. Originally published in 1985 by Doubleday, this novel was republished last year by Sourcebooks Landmark. (Everyone's favorite JA sequel publishing house.) As a side note: Yes it's the Joan Aiken. Prolific writer, author of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase etc. for kids...And as another side note: I swear I have read another of Joan's Austen books as there are several. But I've gone through all of the titles and can't figure it out. The only thing that I can figure is that Sourcebooks has used the phrase "A Jane Austen Entertainment" as the title of another of their books because I know that was in the title of a book I read at some point....Hmmm.

Back to the book--Here's a quick description:
It's set where the original MP ends, Fanny's dear sister, Susan comes to take her place as Lady Bertram's new companion. Sir Tom dies in Antigua, Edmund and Fanny must go there to settle some business affairs as the new Sir Tom must stay to manage the estate etc. Who should appear just after Edmund and Fanny depart, but Mary Ormiston, nee Crawford, who is deathly ill and just wants to come to Mansfield to get some fresh country air and hopes to see her good friends. Add a meddling Mrs. Yates (Julia Bertram), the devilish Henry Crawford and the quaint parson and his sister who take Edmund and Fanny's places and there you have it.

Even with the best intentions this book should not have taken as long to read as it did. It's a mere 201 pages and I swear it took me two weeks to read. (While I just read one book this weekend.) That being said and admitted, I think it speaks volumes as to how entertaining this "entertainment" truly was. Sigh. Joan Aiken you are usually great. But I have to argue the value of entertainment here. There was no Fanny. And while you did justice to Susan's character and got Lady Bertram spot on, I was disappointed. Mary Crawford is dying some mysterious illness and she is all sweet and sugary.

(Insert screech of tires here.) What? Hold the phone, please. Now, I fully admit it's been awhile since I read MP, but sweet and sugary? Syrupy, maybe, but only to where it would suit her purpose. I just couldn't buy into the fact that Miss Crawford was so nice (and dare I say, genuine?) to Susan. In fact, they became fast friends. While the rest of the story was a bit entertaining (Julia trying to marry Tom off to her sister-in-law and ensuing fiascoes that arise etc.), this one character flaw made it so I was irked the whole reading. Every time she appeared on page, I felt a little twitch start up. It just did not work for me. I guess I need to reread MP and see if my interpretation of Mary Crawford is the same as it once was or if I'm completely off on this one.

I hate to say it, but 1 Bonnet out of 5: Listening to Mr. Collins read Fordyce's Sermons is better.


hmsgofita said...

Don't think I'll be reading this one anytime soon. I haven't even read the original story! Thanks for the heads up! Great review.

Laurel Ann said...

No, your remembrance of Mary Crawford is correct. No one could ever consider her to be sugary sweet, though Aiken chose to have her change in temperment because of her illness. I just hate it when another author takes the wind out of a villianesses sails. Thanks for the great review.

celi.a said...

Oh, too bad! I have to say that the Crawfords' scheming villainy was one of my favorite parts of Mansfield Park. That doesn't sound very true to character. I *do* sort of want to know how Susan ends up. :) Good review!