Monday, August 15, 2016

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen

It sounds sexist, I know, but Jane Austen's books are simply not for me, a middle-aged married guy.  I have seen a couple of movies based on her books, and sometimes they're OK.  Maybe if I saw a movie version of Mansfield Park I would like it more.

Fanny, who is one of the oldest children of a poor family, goes to live with her wealthy cousins, the Bertrams.  Through her eyes we gain insight into the lives of the idle rich.  They talk and talk.  They gossip about marriage and arranging to marry the right person.  They ride horses.  Except for Edmund, the Bertrams don't treat her well.  I was so bored and annoyed by the Bertrams and their peers.  So was Fanny, actually.  It turns out that Fanny has more virtue than most of the high-class women around her, and it turns out she gets the best catch of all of them for marriage.

Austen is, of course, a talented writer, who captured this English era and class of people beautifully in her books.  Despite her recognized importance and legions of fans, I do not count myself among them.

(I did get a kick out of one passage about the life of the clergy: "It is . . . indolence and love of ease; a wont of all laudable ambition, of taste for good company, or of inclination to take the trouble of being agreeable which make men clergymen.  A clergyman has nothing to do but be slovenly and selfish--read the newspaper, watch the weather, and quarrel with his wife. . . . the business of his life is to dine."  This is a bit stronger than the "Pastors only work on Sundays" line!)

2016 Reading Challenge: A book by Jane Austen

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