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Posts Tagged ‘19th century’

At a young age, the virtuous and sweet Fanny Price is sent to live with her Uncle and Aunt Bertram, and her four cousins, the feckless Tom, the moral Edmund, and their flighty sisters Maria and Julia.  Fanny falls for Edmund, but keeps her feelings hidden and has to watch as he falls for their friend Mary Crawford, while Maria and Julia are both attracted to Mary’s sister Henry Crawford.  As the Crawford and the Bertrams become closer, entanglements and complications ensue.

In all honesty, there is too much story to put into one small summary, and in many ways this is the most socially aware and least romantic novel of Austens.  It is also probably the least popular of her novels, and I can understand why, although I did enjoy it.

The thing that struck me about the characters is that none of them are particularly likeable.  Fanny is sweet and kind, and Edmund is very  moralistic and by far the most thoughtful of the Bertram children, but (for me anyway) they were both ever-so-slightly boring.  The rest of the characters don’t have much to redeem them, with Mrs Bertram seeming kind, but practically catatonic for most of the novel, and Mr Bertram being well-meaning, but cold and distant.  The other youngsters are pretty self-absorbed, and Fanny’s other aunt, Aunt Norris, is mean-spirited and never misses an opportunity to put Fanny down.

Despite this, there were moments of humour, and the plot was interesting, with a pivotal scene being the play which the youngsters hope to stage, and which is the point at which feelings and attractions start to develop.  (Edmund’s horror at the thought of something so scandalous a play taking place at Mansfield Park – even with no audience – was unintentionally funny!)  There was a lot of angsty dialogue between the characters, and some scenes were overplayed, but I did like the gradual growth in characters as Edmund tries to excuse some of Mary Crawford’s behaviour which he would have found unacceptable in anyone else, and as Fanny starts to be more confident about giving her own opinion (in the first half of the book Fanny is really little more than an onlooker through whose eyes we see the proceedings, but as the story develops she features more, and becomes more interesting to read about).

Overall, it’s well worth reading, and I didn’t think it the disappointment that some Austen fans do.  Fanny, while not the most engaging of characters – she does not have half as much personality as Emma Woodhouse or Elizabeth Bennet for instance – is likeable, and eventually admirable, and the story is well told, even if the ending is predictable to anyone who has read any other of Austen’s books.

(For more information about Jane Austen, please click here.)

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Set in 19th century New England, this is the story of Ren, a young boy who lives at St Anthony’s orphanage.  Ren cannot remember his life before he came to St Anthony’s as a baby, he has no idea who or where his parents are, and he certainly cannot remember why he only has one hand.  He is considered unlikely to ever be chosen for adoption, but one day a charismatic young man called Benjamin Nab calls at the orphanage claiming to be Ben’s older brother.  Ren leaves with this man, but it soon becomes clear that Benjamin is a fraudster and a criminal.  

The young boy soon finds himself involved with thieves, grave-robbers and murderers, and his hopes and dreams of ever finding a proper family seem to be fading fast.  Will Ren manage to disentangle himself from his new and dangerous lifestyle?  And will he ever uncover the truth about his parents?

I have divided thoughts on this book.  There are plenty of positives – I loved the atmosphere – I did feel that the writing evoked the time and place where the action was happening.  There were also a lot of fascinating characters within the story – it was hard to like some of them, but they certainly made an impact and for the most part were very well drawn and distinctive.  The writing is also eloquent and descriptive.

However, I did find that there were a couple of coincidences which occurred in the narrative that just seemed too convenient and lacked credibility.  Also, a few of the lesser characters seemed to be drawn from strong stereotypes, and at times there was a little too much going on – much of which seemed to serve no purpose in the storyline.

Overall however, this is an assured debut novel, and I would certainly be interested to read more  by this author.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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