Another book finished in my read-through of the works of Jane Austen, that famous British author known for her tales of romance that were simultaneously good entertainment and critiques and commentaries on British society. This time it’s Mansfield Park, Austen’s third novel, published in 1814.
Some consider her works to be, and I hate this term, “chick lit.” That is, not a type of gum, but “literature for women.”
To borrow a phrase from our English friends, bollocks.
Good literature is good literature. Calling Austen “chick lit” is like saying a book like The Killer Angels a “guy book” just because it’s about the Civil War.
I see Jane Austen, in a way, as the intellectual forefather (foremother?) of Ray Davies, the great singer and songwriter for the rock band The Kinks. Both of them poked fun at English society and norms, not with meanness and snark, but with a great deal of love and affection.
Enough background. On to the review.
As with my reviews of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, I don’t to rehash plot points here, and instead answer a very simple question:
What should anybody, particularly a male-sort of person living in the twenty-first century, read this book? What did I get out of it?
Again, being an American living in the year 2016, I am not quite as familiar with what was going on in English history in the year 1814 except as it implicates America (for example, there was this war between England and America that started in 1812 . . .). And to be fair, Mansfield Park is no sweeping historical novel, using world events as a backdrop.
I am also not that knowledgeable about the norms of the British class structure in the early nineteenth century, save for that it was pretty rigid and that, for women, marriage was one of, if not the, only way to improve one’s lot in life.
Instead, while reading, I focused on some of the more ordinary points that Austen tried to make, particularly as they pertain to relationships.
And in this regard, as with the other Austen novels I’ve read, Mansfield Park doesn’t disappoint. Continue reading “Book Review: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen”