The first time I read this book I was too enthralled with what was going on and HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT NOW NOW NOW to really slow down and appThe first time I read this book I was too enthralled with what was going on and HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT NOW NOW NOW to really slow down and appreciate what I was reading. I knew I love it, but I wasn't really absorbing and processing. The second time through, when I felt less pressure to get to the end and find out if there's a happy ending or not, and how she gets there, I was able to slow downad truly appreciate it.
The first time through I really didn't care for the first part, with Jane at Mrs. Reed's and Lowood. In my job I deal with way too many child abuse cases to find reading about them in my spare time fun. Although I didn't really enjoy the sections this time, I saw how important they were in shaping Jane's character and determining her actions later in the story. These are probably also the chapters that spawned a thousand nature v. nurture thesis arguments, but I can forgive Bronte for that.
Jane was an unusual heroine for her day, which I think is very easy for us to skim over now. She says and does things that women now take for granted they would be able to say and do, whereas Jane was risking serious social problems by her behavior. She really was a forceful, independent character, in many respects superior to Jane Austen's heroines (although I love them) in that she had neither money, family or beauty to aid her the way Austen's leading ladies always did. Austen's heroines had frustrations, annoyances and tribulations, but few if any of them actually suffered, which is something that makes Jane unique. Lizzy aspired to someone in her same social class but simply more wealthy, with only an annoying family as a hinderance. Jane married outside her rank, and until the end considerably outside her class. That was a bigger feat, after more suffering, than most heroines of that age could have withstood and remained true to themselves. More women today need to learn from a woman like Jane, who would not allow herself to be anything other than equal with her man, rather than simply giving up and allowing a big, strong, rich MAN to protect her. Please, ma'am, I want some more!...more
Although this isn't my favorite Austen, after a second reading it has definitely grown on me. I got more out of it the second time, and was able to apAlthough this isn't my favorite Austen, after a second reading it has definitely grown on me. I got more out of it the second time, and was able to appreciate Fanny better, since she is such a different main character than Lizzy, Emma, or even Anne or Elinor. On re-reading I also realized that there's comparatively little dialogue; most of it is internal narrative and observation, with pages and pages of long paragraphs with only a few lines of conversations interspersed. It made for a different reading experience, and made Fanny an observer of the witty repartee rather than a participant.
The plot structure is a little weird, given that there is no real action, and what little does take place occurs all "off screen," and beyond the knowledge of the narrator and thereof of us until well after it's over. Most of the drama in Austen is personal anyway, and it's not uncommon to find out about the "big developments" through letters (especially in Lydia's escape in Pride Prejudice), but this seemed extreme, and took a lot of the punch out of it. I understand the narrative technique to some extent, I guess, since there would naturally be no witnesses to those parts of the drama, but it still reads strangely.
The main problem I have with Mansfield Park, which has not changed on the second reading, is that I have real issues with Edmund. Like Edward in Sense Sensibility and Frank Churchill in Emma, he lacks...spine. I mean, he does. He is not the most sympathetic of heroes. Although he does try to assist Fanny to some extent, he never really does anything. When Aunt Norris is abusive or Aunt Bertram is blank and unreasonable, he might protest, but he never does anything proactive other than sigh in disgust and go back to his book. What bothers me even more is that he shows no interest in Fanny until the last few pages. He spends the whole book focused on Mary Bertram, even saying that she's the only woman he could ever marry. That makes Fanny's "triumph" with him in the end somewhat bittersweet, because to me it always feels like Edmund considered her a consolation prize. "I can't have the woman I want, so....I guess I'll have you, FINE." That, to me, makes it less satisfying than the union of, say, Lizzy and Darcy or Anne and Wentworth. There's no feeling that you've watched a relationship develop over the course of the book; there's no indication that Edmund thinks of Fanny of anything but a sister for 400 pages, and then at the end goes "Oh, um...no other options? Really? We're sure? Okay...okay, then I guess so. If nothing else is available?" And that makes me less satisfied than I am about the ending of pretty much any of Austen's other works....more
Readable but a little dense--it's never taken me 3 weeks to read 400 pages before. This sounds like the kind of book that would only be of interest toReadable but a little dense--it's never taken me 3 weeks to read 400 pages before. This sounds like the kind of book that would only be of interest to a history nerd, but with the current situation it's an absolutely imperative read for all voters. We're all fed one version of the Depression and the New Deal as inevitable and necessary, respectively, and that war was the only thing that shocked us out of it. Reading this book forces you to realize that the Depression didn't have to be either Great or really a Depression, but the panicked populace pushed politicians (haha) into interfering, and the results landed us into a black hole of poverty that we were over a decade recovering from. The parallels between the economic conditions and the political scene between then and now are too frightening to ignore. The realization that demagogues and whiners who can't take a bit of belt tightening could push us into the same situation very, very easily is ghastly, but we can't afford to ignore the possibility. Learn from history, don't repeat it!...more
Interestingly, I agree with both the people who loved the book, and those who hated it, because they both have very valid points. I loved the look atInterestingly, I agree with both the people who loved the book, and those who hated it, because they both have very valid points. I loved the look at the genuine American hero, the man who was really the good guy we all wanted him to be, who really put service over self. He was determined to advance on merit alone, through hard work and dedication, and at least apparently did. His American dream was to fight for his country, not to simply make mountains of dollars and live however he wanted (although he did that too).
The problem with the book, as others point out, is that it is very poorly written. Starr Smith is a fan, not a historian, and certainly not a biographer. He lacks focus, wandering all over the map, popping up with charming anecdotes that add nothing to the story and make it a "feel good" piece rather than a serious work. The further into the war the book progresses, the more this becomes apparent, until Jimmy seems to glide above it all, untouched and unstained by the ugliness of real combat. So while I consider this to be a charming prologue to a real Stewart combat biography, it is nowhere near the real thing....more
I know this book was all the rage when it came out, and that I'm several years behind the times in reading it now and adding my own praises to the heaI know this book was all the rage when it came out, and that I'm several years behind the times in reading it now and adding my own praises to the heap. So, to reiterate what everyone else said 8 years ago: very well written, easy to read, user-friendly for those not familiar with the time period but not too dumbed-down for those who already have a background in the subject.
What I will say is that, for me, I really enjoyed being reminded that our Founding Fathers were people too. There's so much ground to cover and so little time to do it in during history classes, that you get "John Adams signed the Declaration of Independence, was our second president, and was the father John Quincy Adams. NEXT." First of all, there is a lot more time between those events than we typically think of; obviously we know there's several years between the Declaration and the Constitution, for instance, but in our historical memory the events are "close enough" that we can lump them together. We forget the time lapse, and the "minor" events between the "major" ones, and we also forget that from our position of hindsight we can tell the difference between major and minor events. That was a luxury they didn't have, living in the moment. It's difficult to see the personalities behind the names, but this book (huge though it was!) did a great job in forcing me to see the people as actual people, rather than just props in a predetermined drama. ...more