A highly enjoyable book. I found it much more profound and containing much more food for thought than S&S, and am very pleased to have discovered it!
Fanny Price is a wonderful heroine. I found Elinor in S&S a little annoying – she had no flaws (being too sensible? Is that even possible?). The introduction to this edition (1970 Penguin) criticised Fanny for being boring, inert, prim and flawless. I found her quite the opposite. She worries incessantly, is timid and fearful and generally intriguing in her lack of confidence (“I can never be important to anyone”) – much more interesting, to me at least, than the sensible, upright, confident Elinor Dashwood (and Elizabeth Bennet in P&P). There is also something stubbornly contrary about her (“almost as fearful of notice and praise as other women were of neglect”) – she refuses to change her ways so as to be liked more. Simply by leading by example, she wins over the people around her – in fact, several do not realise her value until she is gone.
The characters are less satirised in MP than they were in S&S and P&P – these could be real people. The misadventures which befall them are much more plausible than the sprained ankle routine with the dashing rescuer just around the corner – the Bertram family deals with financial dilemmas, an absent father, flirtatious daughters, a meddling sister-in-law, a son caught between his vocation to the Church and his love for a pretty socialite – difficulties which stand the test of time much better than illnesses caught from walking in the rain.
The final romantic twist is far from being a twist – it is patently obvious from the very beginning. However, the hindrances which come between the heroine and her beloved are varied and unexpected, which is satisfying enough. Austen makes her usual digs at society, more gently than in other novels though: marrying for money rather than love, useless mothers who “never knew how to be pleasant to children”, marital disharmony and the insufficient attention given to educating young women.
I took to marking interesting points, or memorable quotes, with yellow sticky tabs, and am not sure whether the fact that they were gathered towards the front of the book suggests that the book was less or more interesting in the middle – either the writing became more fluid and I became less conscious of individual pieces of wisdom, or all the interesting points had already been made in the character development and now all that was left to do was tell the story.
All in all – if more of the 40 books turn out like this, I will be extremely happy. I need to get a move on though – it’s now the middle of weekd 5 and I haven’t started the book for week 3…
“There are certainly not so many men of large fortune in the world, as there are pretty women to deserve them.”
“I pay very little regard to what any young person says on the subject of marriage. If they profess a disinclination for it, I only set it down that they have not yet seen the right person.”