Taken from the poverty of her parents' home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny's uncle is absent, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry's attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary's charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords' influence and finds herself more isolated than ever.

I have been ritualistically watching the 2005 version of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park since before I can remember and the book has been begging for me to read it for years now.  The only reason I didn’t get to it before now was because I was worried that I wouldn’t like it and my fantasy would be shattered.  I am happy to say that this is only partially true.  

When a young Fanny Price is taken from home to live with her wealthy Aunt and Uncle, the Bertrams, in the country, she is expected to demonstrate her gratitude for her situation by being in constant service to her kind, but oblivious Aunt.  Constantly reminded of her low situation by her Aunt Norris, isolated from her cousins by her inferior manner and just generally miserable, Fanny learns to lean on Edmund, her one true friend.  As they grow, Fanny’s feelings develop into something more and she begins to love Edmund with all her heart.  But the arrival of Henry Crawford and his sister, Mary, threaten all that Fanny had ever hoped for and throws life at Mansfield Park into disorder.

I do think my vast familiarity with the movie did slightly lessen my enjoyment when reading the book but that certainly isn’t to say that I didn’t still adore it!  
There were only a few moments that caused a little disappointment.  Most of this surrounded the ending and Fanny and Edmund’s relationship.  The panic I experienced when I got to that last chapter and nothing was fully resolved was overwhelming.  What was a complex and drawn out realisation of inclination followed by a cheeky courtship in the movies was reduced to a mere two paragraphs explaining, in true Jane Austen style, that there is no way of knowing how long it took them to discover their inclinations, let alone act upon them, only that, in time, they got there.  Queue me moaning about the complete lack of true, uninfluenced affection which practically made the movie for me.
I just think the book lacked a number of the cute moments between Fanny and Edmund which really made the story for me.

As for the characters, Fanny was a quiet, sweet thing with a heart of gold and generous nature.  I bristled every time people looked down on her, asked for her gratitude or made her feel like a burden.  She was a lot shyer than I expected for her to be, despite the timidity of Billy Piper’s 2005 portrayal, and she lacked the sharp wit which Frances O'Connor brought to the character in the 1999 adaptation.  Even so, I loved her as a character.  

Edmund, I thought, was just as he should be; firm of opinion and determined, but also kind and gentle.  Sir Thomas was much like Edmund, proud but kind, and he valued Fanny in the novel in a way he never did in the movies.  His is the character I respected the most in this story, he admitted his shortcomings and always strived to do his best for his children.

I really don’t know what more I can say.  I absolutely love this book and I thought it was faultless with just the exception of the ending.  It doesn’t quite make it to the top of my list for Jane Austen novels but I would recommend it to anyone with a love of classic literature or a taste for unrequited love.

Rating: 4/5

To get your hands on this book, head on over to Amazon here or Book Depository here or simply head on down to your nearest second hand bookstore.

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