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Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

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Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

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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More Abridged Classics

Another funny drawing by the artist over at Wrong Hands!

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This book has been on my to-read list for quite a while. I had downloaded the Kindle book a while ago and when I logged on to Audible, I found I could get the audiobook for free since I had purchased the corresponding Kindle book. I am quite glad that I read the book. I added it to my list of books to read before you die. It quite an uplifting story and would be great for anyone to read.

The story follows 10 year old Miss Mary. She grew up in India with her parents until cholera wiped out her household. When she was little, she was raised by her nurse and was given anything she wanted. Everyone had to listen to her and do what she said. So when everyone was gone, she didn’t really know what to do. She was sent to live with her uncle in England. Her uncle was very hands off and left her to her own devices. Between her maid, the housekeeper, and a gardener, she slowly transitions from a spoiled, bored, sickly child to a rather independent, lively child who enjoys gardening. She is encouraged by everyone to spend as much time outdoors to improve her health and strength. She meets Dicken, her maid’s brother who has a strong affinity for animals and talking to him helps her see the world differently. She finds her way into a garden that has been shut-up and hidden for a decade. Between her and Dicken they begin to bring the garden to life and the changes they make there begin to reflect themselves in the spirits and health of the young ones. Mysterious crying in the house leads to a new discovery the helps to bring the magic of the secret garden completely to life.

I think the story is a great message to everyone. It teaches about the importance of not being spoiled and lazy. It shows acceptance of disabilities and illustrates the power of thoughts. I found the story to be highly enjoyable and engaging. The writing was simple and fun to read. The language was not extremely difficult but it did provide vocabulary that most children now-a-days do not hear very often. It is also told from the child’s point of view so it will be very easy for children to relate to. Even as an adult, I was able to connect with the story. The simple lessons taught throughout that I mentioned before are relevant even to an adult’s life and it helps to see the world through their eyes. I highly recommend this book if you have never read it before.

My rating:

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Abridged Classics

Courtesy of Wronghands 1Photo post.

Source: abridged classics

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I have a friend who absolutely LOVES Alice in Wonderland. I’ve never seen the animated movie and I’ve watched snippets of the Sy-Fy Channel’s Alice movie. So when I saw the audiobook on sale in the iTunes store, I thought “Why not?”.

Let me begin by saying the audiobook I downloaded was actually done extremely well. It was made by an acting group – the Wizard Academy Press , so each character had a different voice actor. I loved the narrator and the woman who played Alice. There was music and sound effects as well. For an audiobook, it was very engaging.

I knew it was going to be a little strange going in, but I was quite surprised by how strange. Science Fiction is usually not my thing, not that this is exactly science fiction, but neither is it fantasy. I usually like fantasy, but this book was just not my cup of tea. I do give the author credit for creating a very vivid and crazy world that created a comprehensive story line though. It was well written and to most people probably quite interesting. It did grow on me some the longer I read it, especially once Alice got out of the hallway and to the White Rabbit’s house.

The story follows Alice after she falls down a rabbit hole. She goes through many adventures and meets numerous characters. She initially meets the White Rabbit, following him down the rabbit hole. Then she meets a few animals as she is swimming in the Pool of Tears. There is also the Hatter, the March Hare, the Dormouse, and the members of the pack of cards, with the King and Queen of Hearts as their leaders. Throughout it all, Alice is constantly growing and shrinking to fit the needs of the different environments and situations she ends up in.

If I were to listen or read it again, I would probably go with the written book just to make sure. However, I’m not sure I’m likely to read it again. Like I said, it wasn’t really my version of an interesting book, just strange. Also, the majority of the time I spent criticizing Alice for being idiotic in my opinion. So like I said, not my thing, but I’m sure others really enjoy this book. I don’t think I’d really let children under probably 12 or 13 read it because there are drug references, violence, and some more advanced topics, such as a philosophical discussion on time, that are scattered throughout the book.

My rating:

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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I don’t know why, but I really loved it. It is actually quite a sad and depressing story, but it was just so beautifully written and so believable I just like it. I particularly liked the language and vocabulary used by the author. The writing is very eloquent and descriptive. Furthermore, there is a lot of character depth provided to the characters and you feel for everything they are going through.

The book is set in a Puritan settlement of colonial Boston. Mrs. Hester Prin came over from England before her husband in order to prepare a settlement place for them. In a short while she became pregnant, clearly not by her husband. She is imprisoned and her child, little Pearl, is born in her cell. The leaders of the town assign an unusual punishment for her – she must wear a letter A in scarlet on her chest at all times for the rest of her life. She refuses to utter the name of her fellow sinner, the father of her child, and chooses to serve her sentence out peacefully and alone. One the day of her public announcement of shame, her husband appears out of the woods and witnesses her guilt and sentence. He meets with her secretly and tells her she is not to disclose his identity so that he may find and seek revenge upon her lover. The day she is released, Roger Chillingworth, her secret husband, takes up residence as the town doctor. From here, the story follows Hester, Roger Chillingworth, and the Reverend Mister Dimsdale, a public, popular, and dying patient of Roger Chillingworth. You also get to see the growth of Pearl and how she is different from other children because of her behavior and outlook on life.

The story unfolds quickly and never ceases. You get to see the evil in the world, but also the restorative power of repentance. Also, it is a highly religious book, which follows a very precise religion. You may not agree with all the rules and regulations, but you get a clear picture of the world in which these characters are living and how they see themselves in it. There is much self revelation, an example of the power of guilt on a person, and the influence of anger and hatred can have on a person. It is a fabulous rendition of a specific time and way of living that many of us have forgotten. A must read for anyone who likes literature or a good psychological read.

My rating:

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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

 

The first thing that surprised me about this book was the time period it was set in. Usually “classics” are set in times before 1900/1910. This book actually takes place in the thirties, after the invention of cars, telephones, and general connection to electricity. It had a faint Gatsby type quality to it. The second thing that surprised me was that the narrator never gave her name. Throughout the book she is not addressed directly, except as “Mrs. de Winter” after she is married. It was quite interesting for some reason.

The narrator is a young woman you first me working as a companion to an American woman in Monte Carlo. There she meets Maximillian de Winter, a recent widower. The two have a very fast courtship and marry within the month. The return to Manderley, his well-known estate house. As the narrator settles in to married life (and during her courtship), she becomes aware that any reference to Maxim’s first wife Rebecca causing great tension within him. He doesn’t like to talk about her or hear her mentioned. At the house, she feels the anger of the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who resents her taking Rebecca’s place. The narrator feels a constant competition going on between herself and the deceased Rebecca. This causes much heartache, pain, and tension through the first half of the book. Everything comes to a head at the Fancy Dress Ball that is held in her honor. Afterwards, you learn a great deal more about the drama that unfolded at the house before her arrival and the previous Mrs. de Winter’s death. The twists and turns the story takes at this point are quite fascinating and you really get to know and like several characters.

As I read it, I could see how it was considered a classic. The story line was quite interesting, but took it a step further by adding twists and turns one never saw coming. It takes a while though to really get into it. I had a feeling like I was reading Wuthering Heights for a while, where you hate (actually feel rage and hate) toward many of the characters in the book. It gives the impression of a twisted love story for a while. After the Fancy Dress Ball there is a marked change in numerous characters that improves the story greatly for the better. You let out a sigh of relief when you discover the different truths scattered throughout Manderley and with the de Winter household. I have trouble deciding whether or not I like the book actually. I really despised the beginning, actually wanted to stop reading it, but my husband assured me it was well worth it to finish. He was quite right. I was glad I finished it, not exactly happy about the way it ended, sort of a cliff hanger, but it ended strong. I chose to go with 4 cheese bits instead of 3 for my rating because I would read it again if I was looking for an interesting, non-traditional story.

My rating:

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