Sheila Espineli's Reviews > My Jane Austen Summer: A Season in Mansfield Park

My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy Jones
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Jul 26, 11

Read in July, 2011

** spoiler alert ** I found this book in Target and it was one of those impulse buys I almost regretted. While I found it amusing being a big Jane Austen fan, I thought that the book had some issues and I don't think the central heroine was as likeable as I believe she thought she was. And honestly, I tried not to hold her liking of Fanny Price against her! In fact, I think that because of reading this book, I actually like Fanny Price more than I had previously (which is surprising to me).

I guess I should explain briefly about Fanny Price...she is my least favorite of Austen's female protagonists, mainly because she is so passive and a "goody-two-shoes." Then again, she is probably closer to how most women acted in a dependent situation in Regency England, while someone like Elizabeth Bennet is almost a fantasy, though a delightful and entertaining one. Mansfield Park, while not the most engaging of Austen's novels, is certainly one that generates a lot of debate, and that intellectual debate is interestingly depicted here, though it was still hard for me to imagine how this live Austen festival actually worked. I can't imagine that people were happy spending money watching actors perform lines from Mansfield Park...I would rather go see the Sleep No More production currently in Manhattan.

The premise of this novel was interesting (the protagonist, Lily Berry, escapes a bad relationship and job to work, sort of, for a Jane Austen festival held at a manor house in England) but the execution was poor. Unfortunately, I read this while also reading George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series where his gift for character development just continues to astonish me as I progress through each volume...it's an unfair comparison, but it made me see how Jones was trying too hard to give Lily Berry (ugh her name made me cringe too) some character depth, when Martin's characterization appears effortless in comparison. The various subplots were too much...the Elizabeth Banks story literally went nowhere and apparently served as a plot device to provide Lily a wardrobe as well as put one of her treasured keepsakes in jeopardy. Honestly, her "stalking" of her ex and her obsession with her late mother's funeral made her seem creepy rather than someone I wanted to get to know more...not that every character should be likeably perfectl but the author could have presented her neuroses in a more subtle manner, in my opinion. And a vampire novel?! How unoriginal - the parallel was too obvious and was another element that took me out of the story.

I did get more than I expected out of this impulse read, but at the same time it left me wishing for more...there was potential, but it got too bogged down in the conventional and obvious details. Oh well...
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