Reviews: Mansfield Park

"Least popular Jane Austen book" doesn't mean it's not a great Jane Austen book

Reading the TV Tropes article on this book, where it mentions it's being the least popular Jane Austen book, one might think it is not worth reading. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To be sure, Mansfield Park is very different from Pride And Prejudice and Austen's other works. Part of it is that it isn't really so much a "romance" novel... or rather, it shows what could go horribly wrong in romance. The main successful romance in the book doesn't really begin until the Denouement in the last chapter; the bulk of the book focuses on trials brought forth by the other suitors about.

It definitely is Darker And Edgier, and lies much further on the cynical end of the Sliding Scale Of Idealism Vs Cynicism. It can be viewed as a Deconstruction of certain romance tropes, or a clear showing of what happens when Reality Ensues. In a way, this helps the book in its own way, making it more relatable. The idealized romances many stories provide aren't bad, but sometimes it is refreshing to read that sometimes, love just doesn't work out that way.

The big complaint many critics have leveled on the book, though, is how the main heroine, Fanny Price, is "weak", especially compared to other Austen heroines. Certainly, her harsh upbringing has made her into an Extreme Doormat Shrinking Violet at first, and she never does quite shake off her reserved temperament. However, if you're willing not to be swayed by first impressions, Character Development does set in and a big part of the book is what happens one major time Fanny decides to stand up for herself. Jane Austen shows that inner strength is not based on outward displays of extroversion, and that a reserved character can still be plenty strong in spirit. In fact, this could be a great example of why Shrinking Violet characters can be so appealing when they have moments where they don't shrink back.

As for the Draco In Leather Pants issue, this could be because, aside from Complete Monster Mrs. Norris, none of the characters are written to be truly "evil", and they all have their good parts; some of them just have fatal character flaws that make them ultimately unsuitable for romance with the leads. This just adds to how this book is more of a realistic picture of love by avoiding having any outright villainous romantic interests.

Definitely a book worth reading.