Saturday, May 14, 2022

Book Review: "Revisit Mansfield Park"

Something I've always wanted to do as a regular feature here on my blog is reviews of other Austenesque novels. I've done a few in the past, and one day, I aim to set a day of the week for them. 

That said, here is my latest review! 

The story is Revisit Mansfield Park: How Fanny Married Henry. It was apparently supposed to be the first in a series (there is a chapter of the next book at the back of this one) but no other books have been written since this one was published in 2014. Which was a bummer to me, as I rather liked this story. 

The first few chapters are basically a long summary of the events of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park up to the point that the "heroine", Fanny Price, is shipped off to Portsmouth to spend a few months with her impoverished parents in order to teach her the benefit of saying yes to a rich man. That it's a Mansfield story is great in and of itself, as there really are so few variations written of any Austen book other than Pride and Prejudice. Of the few MP variations I've come across, they have all had the same theme: Fanny marries Henry Crawford. I've no problem with that, if Henry's redemption arc is believable. 

The deviation from canon begins during Henry's visit to Fanny while staying with her parents. He asks her for her opinion on what he should do about a matter regarding his estate, and instead of just telling him he knows "what is right", she gives him her opinion -- and he actually listens to her. Ms. Ozcandarli paints Henry as truly loving Fanny, and being willing to do whatever it takes to earn her love. He asks if he may write to her, though she tells him he must get her uncle's permission first. So they begin a correspondence, because of course Sir Thomas is going to say yes to anything which might convince Fanny to marry the respectable and wealthy Mr. Crawford. Henry is bold enough to ask Fanny in his first letter to tell him why she refused him, and Fanny lets him have it. Not in an impolite way, as Fanny's not the sort who would use abusive language. But she give him what he asked for -- the truth. Much to Fanny's surprise, not only does Henry not get angry, he actually accepts his share of the guilt for the ungentlemanly behavior which decided her opinion against him in the first place. 

Through the course of writing to one another, Fanny and Henry get to know each other better. They also get to know themselves better. Fanny comes to realize that she's growing bolder and less timid, and that what she thought was love for her cousin Edmund was a girlish infatuation born of his being nicer to her than anyone else. She also comes to realize that when she danced with Henry at the Mansfield ball, she began to develop real feelings for him which, through their correspondence, grows into love. My only quibble with this is that the author writes her as having begun to love him then, even though she professed to dislike him. I don't buy that -- I can accept she might have felt something different then than she felt for Edmund, and maybe it scared her to feel something for this man whose behavior was so disagreeable to her, but not love. Not then. It's more realistic to me that she comes to love Henry through his letters than for it just to be a feeling she buried because she didn't like him. 

Henry, in return, is on a journey to not only win Fanny's love and respect, but also the respect of his steward and tenants at Everingham. He throws himself into learning to manage his property -- which he'd never bothered to do before -- as well as getting to know the people that work for him and rent his lands. He prepares a special room in his house just for Fanny's use before she has even said she will marry him, and he even makes plans to increase his profits on the estate. All because she inspired him to not only do better but be better. Because he spends so much time at Everingham, because he is corresponding with Fanny, Henry does not spend time in London where Fanny's cousin Maria Rushworth is. He's not there being so frustrated over Fanny's refusal that he's stupid enough to tease and flirt with Maria like he did at Mansfield. Henry, over the course of the story, becomes someone the morally upright Fanny can truly love and esteem. 

Fanny's relationship with her sister Susan is touched on, and she even has some enlightening moments with her mother and father. Maria still behaves foolishly, in this story with another of Austen's rakish men, and Mrs. Norris is just like her loathsome self (let it be known I truly despise her).

Revisit Mansfield Park is a surprisingly good story. I may just read it again someday, and I do wish the author had written the second book. 4 out of 5 stars.