2016 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge, Book Reviews

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park B.C.

I’ve been a Jane Austen fan for a while now. My favorite of her works was Persuasion until I read this book. I absolutely loved Mansfield Park! Like all her other works, there is romance throughout, but not the near erotica of today’s romance. There’s no sex, no innuendo, no open sexual flirtation, just a little hand-holding (rare) or a kiss (very rare), but primarily just the interesting conversation and lively interactions between ladies and gentlemen.

Mansfield Park is the story of Fanny Price. Fanny was born to a rather poor family with a load of children. When her mother’s older sister offers to raise Fanny, she is sent to live at Mansfield Park at the age of 10, far away from her family and closest sibling, her older brother William. However, she takes of residence with her aunt and uncle Mr. and Mrs. Bertram and their four children – Tom, Edmund, Maria, and Julia. While growing up, she becomes close friends with Edmund and a personal helper to Mrs. Bertram. She is quite content with her second-place role to the rest of the children in the family. Also, there was Mrs. Norris, Fanny’s other aunt and Mrs. Bertram’s sister who is a continual busy-body in their life and reminding Fanny of how grateful she should be for the wonderful life she had been given.

The meat of the story falls just after Fanny turns 18. The elder sister of the Bertram family, Maria, lands a fiance and eventually a husband in the wealthy, but boring Mr. Rushworth. A new preacher moves into the area and his wife brings her younger sister and brother for an extended visit. The sister, Mary Crawford, begins to court Edmund and the brother, Henry, is a player who plays with the emotions between Maria and Julia. Eventually, there is a big kerfuffle at which point Maria’s husband decides to remove himself and his wife to his estate to the north, away from Henry Crawford,  Henry Crawford is essentially banned, and both Crawfords retire to town. Edmund is heart-broken, Fanny is heart-broken for Edmund, Julia is heart-broken, and Maria finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage.  Later, Henry Crawford pops back up when Fanny is visiting family and begins to court her. Fanny attempts to shake off the courtship but cannot seem to manage it. Eventually, Henry returns to town to wait for her he says while Fanny tries to convince Edmund that Mary Crawford doesn’t really love him.

It is a highly emotionally charged book. I loved Fanny and felt a strong connection with her. You felt each one of her emotions as she dealt with her growing emotions and love for different people. Her emotions are so pure and real you cannot help but relate to her. I found myself often yelling at the other characters because you could see what should happen but everyone was messing around. It was a fabulous book that I will be reading again.

My rating:

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2016 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge, Book Reviews

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jeanne Rhys

Sargasso Sea B.C.

I was quite excited to finally get my hands on this book. I had heard a lot of good rumblings and reviews about it. I am a huge Jane Eyre and was excited to read about the back story of Bertha and Rochester’s life in Jamaica. However, I don’t know if it was the writing style or how I was reading it but I was surprisingly unhappy with the book. I do think though that the way I read, in bits and snatches when I had a free minute, contributed to  way I didn’t like it. I think that I will need to read it again to actually enjoy and fully understand it.

The book is written with quite a lot of Jamaican dialect, just so any future readers are aware. It is not super difficult to understand but it takes a little bit to get the hang of understanding the phrases readily. The book starts out with Bertha as a girl growing up with her mother on a plantation. It goes through her life, her friends, and her views on the world around her. In particular, it is an interesting study on the lives of whites in an area abundant with newly freed slaves.  In comes a man her mother marries and there lives subtly change. When the family is attacked, the move and Bertha begins to attend boarding school. Then the book cuts to the wedding between Bertha and Rochester. Of course, like all the reviews stated, Rochester is not directly named but anyone who had read Jane Eyre knows that it is him. Interestingly, Bertha is not actually called Bertha until much later in the book. After the wedding, the book follows Rochester’s thoughts for quite a while. It goes through his struggle on his marriage and dealing with his new wife, his struggles with his family, and what he is hoping to accomplish. You don’t really get a feel for Bertha much in this section, but again it may have been the way I was reading the book. A little bit further into the book you have other people intervening and complicating the marriage with stories, lies, and hidden truths.  Eventually, you get to hear Bertha’s thoughts again and how she is dealing with the different developments and people around her. I didn’t think the writing really reflected her descent into madness very well, but I am going to read it again to see if I missed the slow changing of her thoughts.

For any other Jane Eyre fans, I would recommend the book. It did give a very interesting view of a Rochester that we did not get to see in Jane Eyre. I would recommend that you take your time when you read it and really pay attention to details and not wait long if you have to put it down before you pick it up again. It also provides and interesting view on how whites were treated in Jamaica after the freeing of the slaves. I was quite surprised by how much of a picture it painted of the time period, attitudes, beliefs, and fears that were present at the time.