For a change the Book Group decided to visit one of the classics, Mansfield Park was chosen, it has to be said although I and one other member of the group are big Jane Austen fans it wasn’t either of us that chose it, despite the fact that we are both in that minority of Jane Austen fans who also like Mansfield Park.
Mansfield Park isn’t the light tale of society romance that to many is Jane Austen’s hallmark, however on reading it on this occasion it did strike me as being surprisingly contemporary. Yes it is still set in Austen’s own times, but the views expressed in it would hardly be unfamiliar to many in today’s world, the attitude of Miss Crawford towards the Church, the struggles of conflicting morals and that familiar scene of ‘while the cat being away the mice playing’ when in Sir Thomas’ absence the play which, is in my view the pivotal point of the book, is conceived and organised.
It has long been debated as to what the book is all about, in this readers opinion it is primarily a book about change. Fanny Price starts not wanting the changes that have been enforced upon her life, then when the time comes that she can try and turn back the clock and return to her own home she discovers that the changes that she didn’t really want are want she now wants, Mansfield Park not Portsmouth is now home to her. Change in it’s true style is never content but always self perpetuating yet more change and Mansfield Park is touched first by illness and then scandal and the attitudes that surround it, and although Fanny is still in Portsmouth the consequences of these changes still impact on her, and soon, she returns and the consequences of all that has past makes the future clear. But this book is about more than Fanny, she isn’t alone all around her others also confront change, changes which despite their fortunate position in life are also being thrust upon them, attitudes to women, slavery and morality are all changing and have an impact not just on Fanny Price but on the cozy bubble which is Mansfield Park.
Of course by the end of the book the girl gets the boy, it is Jane Austen after all, but the twist and turns, the darker nature and the complexity of the sub texts in this story make Pride and Prejudice look like a children tale.
All in all we agreed it was great to revisit a classic and have decided that, indeed that is what will we do on every 6th book club in future.