I’ve finally finished reading Austen’s MANSFIELD PARK, which I found remarkably hard going. This was not helped by reading the first half over the course of several months in dribs and drabs; the second half, which I read over the past several days, went more easily. But I struggled with remembering who the characters were in relation to one another, and it was made worse by some of the longest sentences I’ve ever been dragged down by. I had a hell of a time remembering what had happened at the beginning of the sentence before I got to the end.
The first quarter or so of the book almost entirely fails to feature the nominal protagonist, Fanny Price. This is, I expect, by design, because Fanny is introverted and disinclined to put herself forward, so it’s all about things going on around her, but it’s a little difficult to get involved with a character when she’s not featured on the page.
There is a great. deal. of telling. This is a thing that Austen does and which I had not been so aware of previous to writing a Jane Austen pastiche, but it’s particularly noticeable when–again–the main character isn’t actually participating in the story.
Fanny is, despite not being on the page for so much of the book, a well-realised character, when one recognises that the point is to develop a character who can’t put herself forward. Another stand-out character is her Aunt Bertram, who is the most placid character I have ever met in fiction.
Twice in the book, kind of toward the end, the author inserts herself to the effect of “I could not know” or “I do not wish to dwell,” which I didn’t care for, and which resulted in…well, she does this in P&P, too, where the last chapter is a sort of “and this is how it all ended up” thing, which I find unsatisfactory, perhaps particularly from a writer’s point of view. Like, “Seriously, all this work and you’re not going to show us the upshot, just relate it?” Egh.
I liked it all right, overall, but I don’t know if I would have liked it at all if I hadn’t seen a film of the book first and gone into it with some knowledge of how the story would develop. I don’t think I’ve had gotten far enough *into* the book to like it. So. Kind of a mixed bag there. :)