Books: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (Chapters 1–8)

I went to Half Price Books the other day and picked up a couple of used copies of Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey. You see, I've read Pride & Prejudice, and Emma, and Sense & Sensibility. And I've subsequently seen various film and/or television adaptations of these. But I have not read nor seen Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, or Persuasion. And while Persuasion was the one I was most interested in, HPB did not have a copy. Surprising! But I bought the other two.

I'm now eight chapters into Mansfield Park. I like it. But then I've liked everything by Jane Austen so far, so it's not surprising that I like this one too. I do feel sorry for Fanny. She's a bit of a ninny, but I think it's only the situation that makes her thus; I get the strong feeling she was quite capable in her life before being remanded to Mansfield, and it's only in the uprooting and transplanting that she's become stunted, a bit wilted. She's a sensitive thing, and I'm glad for Edmund who, though not quite as attentive as he could be, is more so than most.

I do not quite follow Fanny's health issues, the need to horseback ride and the difficulties with too much walking? I have to take Austen at her word there. Maybe it is because I walk quite a bit and suffer ill health when I don't walk . . . I can walk all day quite heartily, have been known to wear my companions out with walking. Jogging I can't suffer, but walking pleases me no end. And of course riding, too, when I get the chance. Though what I really enjoy is swimming. Don't get to do that nearly enough.

Anyway, all that aside, poor Fanny is so often neglected and overlooked and undervalued, I do feel bad for her. And Austen is so good at drawing characters. One knows exactly what type of person each of these characters is, all the little subtleties of personality show so clearly through Austen's prose. They've just made a party to Sotherton, and Fanny is of course delighted to be invited, but one wonders how she will do in company when so far she has always been left out? Don't ruin it for me, mind. I'm so enjoying reading it.

Fanny's fallback position seems to be to keep to herself, and she's often enough left to herself that this seems to be preferable on all fronts. But surely something must come along to prompt or motivate her? The whole book cannot be about Fanny sitting back and watching everything happening around her. Can it?

Or maybe I'm bringing too modern a sensibility to the story. Maybe Fanny watching all the goings-on is exactly what this book is. I guess I'll find out.

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