Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment, by Joan Aiken – A Review

Cover of Mansfield Park Revisited, by Joan Aiken (2008)When a book written twenty five years ago is reissued as confidently as Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment by a publisher who specializes in Jane Austen sequels, you hope that it is laudable. Of all of the past sequels to select, (and there are more than a few), why choose one based on Jane Austen’s least popular novel Mansfield Park? What has the new author created to make this sequel worthy of resurrection?

Published in 1814, Mansfield Park was Jane Austen’s third novel and even though I adore it, it has more than its share of nay sayers. There are several reasons why it is a disappointment (to some), but primary objections fall to its heroine Fanny Price, who some feel is weak and insipid and not at all like Austen’s other popular heroine’s. Author Joan Aiken’s solution in her continuation of Mansfield Park is to resume the story four years after the conclusion and to remove Fanny Price almost entirely from the novel by packing her and her husband Edmund Bertram off to Antigua in the first chapter. Fanny’s younger sister Susan Price has been brought to the forefront, stepping into Fanny’s previous role as poor relation elevated to companion to Lady Bertram now a widow after Sir Thomas Bertram’s unexpected death while attending to his business in the West Indies. Susan has matured into an attractive and bright young woman similar to her older sister, but with a lot more spunk, which will please Fanny opponents. Susan holds her own against her cousins the new Sir Thomas Bertram who often thinks she over steps her position and his sister Julia, now the Honorable Mrs. Yates who resides in the neighborhood and upon Susan’s back, objecting to her every move. We are also reintroduced to other characters from the original novel: cousin Maria Bertram the scandalous divorcee, Mary Crawford estranged from her feckless fop of a husband and now gravely ill, and her brother Henry Crawford still a bachelor having never found anyone as worthy as his last love, Fanny Price. Aiken also adds a delightful array of new secondary characters to the mix supplying interest and humor.

Mansfield Park Revisited (1984)A quick read at 201 pages, Aiken moves the story briskly along with a series of challenging events and resolutions that keep the reader engaged, but sadly never resting to discover personalities or relationships in greater detail. At the conclusion I felt more than a bit deprived of a good love story as Susan comes to the conclusion whom she truly loves on the last few pages. This style not only mirrors Jane Austen’s approach with her hero and heroine’s romance in Mansfield Park, but amplifies one of the main objections to the original novel. Despite this flaw, Aiken is by far one of the most talented writers to attempt an Austen sequel and Mansfield Park Revisited truly worthy of resurrection. She has respectfully continued Austen’s story by expanding her characters, adapting the language for the modern reader, accurately including the social mantle and believably turning our concerns for the two main antagonists Mary and Henry Crawford at the end of Mansfield Park into sympathies, which given their principles and past bad behavior is quite an accomplishment. Packing Austen’s heroine Fanny Price off to another country might seem extreme, but it is sure to please the Fanny bashers and allowed Aiken to develop her own heroine Susan who has enough spirit and resolve for the both of them.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment
By Joan Aiken
Trade paperback (201) pages
Sourcebooks Landmark, Naperville, IL (2008)
ISBN: 978-1402212895

Cover image courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark © 2008; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2009, Austenprose.com

The Austen Tattler: News and Gossip on the Blogosphere

“All that she wants is gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it.”
Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 31

Austen around the blogosphere for the week of September 21st

‘Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey’ begins on October 1st here at Austenprose, so start reading Northanger Abbey and gearing up for another great Austen novel event. I have been investigating Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho which will be our second group read and happened upon this nice article about the author and her work on PopMatters by Deane Sole.

The Austen Shopaholic deal the week is 40% off on the book New Friend’s and Old Fancies by Sibil Briton at Sourcebooks on line shop. This novel is reputedly the first Austen sequel ever published, though I do not think that scholars will ever let us believe that it was the first, but it has been claimed thus by Sourcebooks. Use code AUSTENSOURCE 10 at check out to receive your discount, and enjoy!

Austenesque author Lori Smith announces the release of her book A Walk with Jane Austen in the UK with a stunning new cover. We think that the pink Wellies are quite appropriate! Congrats, Lori!

With the movie The Duchess opening in the US theaters this week, Lady Georgian Spencer continues to be a hot topic in entertainment news. She married William Cavendish, fifth duke of Devonshire, in 1774, and they resided at Chatsworth, a grand estate in Derbyshire. Musings on Pride and Prejudice blog writes about the Jane Austen connection and similarities in the Cavendish and Darcy families. You can also get three perspectives on the movie The Duchess at Jane Austen’s World.

Austen quote of the week from an interview of actress Amanda Lisman who is portraying Elizabeth Bennet in Tom Woods new stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice at The Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Septmeber 20 – October 12. Read a review of a prevue on the production here.

In reading her, I realized how much Austen’s writing has influenced romantic comedy, the (mis-matched) couple overcoming obstacles after first impressions. I just think it’s so remarkable that such a young woman, so geographically isolated, had such insights into human nature. And was so witty…. And it still resonates, in specific situations and class structure, and in the humour. We were all pleased and surprised there was so much laughter in (first performances in) Banff: the humour of the characters, so many lines people love…. It’s a book that speaks to people’s hearts; it’s pretty iconic.

Austenesque book reviews for the week; The Jane Austen Book Club, Pride and Prejudice Board Game, Northanger Abbey, Me and Mr. Darcy, The Matters at Mansfield, Persuasion, Impusle & Initiative, Mr. Knightley’s Diary, Mansfield Park Revisited, Seducing Mr. Darcy, The Watson’s and Emma Watson, Jane Austen: A Life, Oxford World’s Classics: Emma, and The Darcys and The Bingleys. Wow! Lots of Austen readin’ going on out there folks. Keep it up.

Actress Brenda Blethyn who portrayed Mrs. Bennet in the 2005 movie of Pride and Prejudice is currently staring as faded southern belle Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee William’s classic play The Glass Menagerie at The Norwich Theatre Royal, September 22-27. Here is a great interview of actress Anna Chancellor who played Caroline Bingley in the 1995 mini-series of Pride and Prejudice, and presently appearing in the play Creditors at Covent Garden in London.

The Becoming Jane fan site has announced that The Jane Austen Centre on line magazine has added their biography of Madame LeFroy to their section on Jane Austen family biographies. Congrats ladies!

Author of Sex and the City Candace Bushnell has delusions that she is the modern Jane Austen!?! Well, not quite, but this writer likes to sensationalize a bit to get our attention. Did it work?

Lost in Austen, the ITV mini-series pastiche of Pride and Prejudice on UK tellie continues to amaze us in a bus accident sort of way. The whiplash rubber necking abounds as the media and on line blogs are deconstructing episode 3 which aired this past week.  Jane Austen in Vermont blog has an interesting vantage from a British viewer, Jane Austen’s World has some fabulous screen caps and a review, AustenBlog readers continue to tell it like it is with their comments, of course I had to have my share of the conversation, and here is some eye candy for you all as Jane Austen Today displays the Hunks of Lost in Austen.

The Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England opened on September 19th and will continue through September 28th. On Saturday the 20th, Regency finerie was afoot as participants paraded about the city in the grand Promenade. Talented photographer Owen Benson contacted Austenprose to tell us he had uploaded many stunning shots of the event, including someone that you might recognize, Austen intern Virginia Claire Tharrington, who looks quite stunning in her mustard ribboned bonnet. Lucky girl to be there. Pea Green of course!

So where is Jane Austen’s true home? Chawton or Bath? The debate continues as the two cities duke it out over bragging rights in Literary Smackdowns: Jane Austen Territory on The L Magazine blog and Satisfaction Will Be Demanded at AustenBlog.

Unseen Austen an new radio play on BBC4 by Judith French imagines Pride and Prejudice through an impertinent and over the top Lydia Bennet and available by Podcast. Oh la! Go Lydia! Feeling sentimental? Then listen to a Podcast from CBC Radio from 1996 entitled Jane Mania, focusing on the wave of popularity spawned by the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series. Sharon Farrell interviews novelist and film adaptor Fay Weldon (P&P 1979), Oxford scholar Marilyn Butler and Austen biographer Claire Tomalin. What an incredible group a well informed and witty women, talking about our favorite subject. Personally, I can never get enough of that!

The third annual R.I.P. reading challenge is underway until October 31st. This reading event is hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings and has a horror and Gothic theme. I have taken up the challenge and will be reading three ‘perils’ written or influenced by Jane Austen; Northanger Abbey, Pemberley Shades and The Mysteries of Udolpho. You can also join in this reading challenge since Austenprose’s two group reads during ‘Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey’ in October will qualify you for R.I.P. III. So, go Gothic with us in October y’all, cuz ya won’t regret it.

Until next week, happy reading!

Laurel Ann

Mansfield Park Sequels: Mansfield Park Revisited: Is Fanny Price a Funny Girl? Day 15 Give-away!

THE SEQUELS

A recent review at the venerable on-line periodical Publisher’s Weekly of the re-issue of Mansfield Park Revisited by Joan Aiken gave me quite a good chuckle. It’s amazing how a small typo can change the whole direction of a book! It appears on first glance that this reviewer thinks that Jane Austen’s heroine from Mansfield Park is one in the same as Broadway legend Fanny Brice! 

Now, our dear Fanny Price has been called many things; insipid, weak and other unmentionables which have lead to a few heated Janeite debates on Austen-L and elsewhere online, but this is a first. We knew that Mansfield Park was full of theatricals and references to the stage, but if my memory serves, Fanny refused to act in play Lovers’ Vows in the novel, so if she has had a change of heart and I have missed Fanny’s singing, dancing and comedic talents on Broadway, it is quite an oversight! Oh what merriment this typo created! 

Mansfield Park Revisited

Joan Aiken. Sourcebooks, $14.95 paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-4022-1289-5 

Author and scholar Aiken (1924-2004), known for her Jane Austen continuations, has imagined a sequel to Mansfield Park that’ll satisfy some Austen fans while enraging others. Heroine Fanny Brice has married her cousin Edmund Bertram and decamped for the family’s Caribbean plantation, leaving her younger sister, Susan, behind to serve as Lady Bertram’s companion at Mansfield Park. Less timid than her sister, but dismissed just the same by her finer relatives, Susan soon encounters the Crawfords, Henry and Mary, a diverting but amoral brother-and-sister pair who had nearly undone the proud Bertram family. Aiken’s sympathetic vision of the Crawfords’ fate, after their seduction of Fanny and her cousins, may strike a false note for Austen purists, but Aiken ably reproduces the author’s traditional plot twists and social comedy, if not her fluid prose or biting satire. (Oct.) 

Mansfield Park Revisited is being reissued by Sourcebooks on October 1, 2008, and quite possibly Joan Aiken’s sequel to Mansfield Park does contain the character of Fanny Brice, the Broadway and Radio legend, who hoofs her way to the Bertram’s Caribbean plantation to sing and dance and entertain the locals. But I doubt it!  

Mansfield Park Madness: Day 15 Give-away

Leave a comment by August 30th to qualify for a drawing on August 31st for one copy of 

 

Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment, by Joan Aiken

(On sale Octber 1, 2008) Sourcebooks Landmark (2008). Re-issue. Sequel to the novel Mansfield Park in which Fanny’s sister Susan’s story is revealed. Trade paperback, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1402212895 

Upcoming posts!
Only two days left to qualify for the many great give-aways!
Winners announced August 31st.
Day 16 – Aug 30          MP: What People Are Saying
Day 17 – Aug 31          MP Madness Conclusion

Mansfield Park Madness @ Austenprose Preview

Mansfield Park Madness Banner

Mansfield Park Madness at Austenprose August 15-31 

Seventeen days of seventeen great give-aways

and Fanny too!

 

Welcome Janeites and classic literature fans. I am pleased to announce that Austenprose will be hosting a seventeen day event in celebration and re-discovery of Jane Austen’s most complex and often misunderstood novel Mansfield Park. Please join us on our daily journey of discovery as we investigate and discuss the text, movie adaptations and sequels. Here are a few highlights of what will be featured.  

Mansfield Park, Oxford Illustrated Edition (1988)

Mansfield Park Book Editions 

Current versions of the text in print published by Broadview Press (2001), Norton Critical Edition (1998), Oxford World’s Classics (2008) and Oxford Illustrated Editon (1988), Cambridge University Press (2005), Penguin Classics (2003) and Barnes & Noble Classics (2005) book editions, and the Naxos unabridged audio version (2007).  

Mansfield Park Movie (1999)

Mansfield Park Movie Adaptations 

1983: staring Sylvestra Le Trouzel and Nicholas Farrell
1999: staring Frances O’Conner and Johnny Lee Miller
2007: staring Billie Piper and Blake Ritson
Metropolitan 1990: written and directed by Whit Stillman, staring Carolyn Farina, Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman 

Cover of Edmund Bertrams Diary (2008)

Mansfield Park Book Sequels 

Edmund Bertram’s Diary, by Amanda Grange
Mansfield Park Revisited, by Joan Aiken
The Matters at Mansfield: or The Crawford Affair, by Carrie Bebris  
Central Park, Debra W. Smith 

17 Great Give-aways

Don’t miss your chance to win a free copy of the 17 items that are featured over the 17 day event. Many of the novel editions, all of the movies, and all of the sequels discussed will be offered in drawings from comments left between August 15-30. Winners announced on August 31. 

Please join us –  because gentle Fanny has requested your attendance and does not want to be viewed as insipid any longer!

Cheers, Laurel Ann 

Upcoming posts
Day 1 – Aug 15            MP Madness introduction
Day 2 – Aug 16            MP novel discussion chapters 1-8
Day 3 – Aug 17            MP 1983 movie review and discussion
Day 4 – Aug 18            MP Naxos (Juliet Stevenson) audio review 

Beautiful Mansfield Park Madness banner by the handsome, clever and rich in heart Kali Pappas at Strangegirl Designs