'Mansfield Park', by Jane Austen (Book Club, March '23)

Mansfield Park is sometimes said to be the most serious and profound of Jane Austen’s works, highlighting the conflicts between social behaviour and moral values. As Ian Littlewood writes in the introduction to the Wordsworth Classics edition:

“Jane Austen can charge the trivialities of commonplace social events with a weight of significance that turns them into moral drama.”

And drama there most certainly is. A 2014 newspaper article by Paula Byrne (a biographer of Jane Austen) carries the headline:

“Mansfield Park shows the dark side of Jane Austen”

and the standfirst:

“Ignore its uptight reputation, Mansfield Park […] seethes with sex and explores England’s murkiest corners"

Byrne writes that it is “impossible for [her] to love anyone who doesn’t love (or at least admire) Jane Austen’s least-loved novel, Mansfield Park”. And in Littlewood’s view, it is “a book more often admired than loved”.

What do you think? Do you love Mansfield Park, or admire it? Or is your reaction to the book completely different? And what do you make of Fanny Price?

You can download a copy of the e-book from Project Gutenberg or Standard Ebooks. Audio versions are available from LibriVox. But any unabridged edition (paper, digital or audiobook) is fine.

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