The Mansfield Park of the title, a magnificent, idyllic estate which is home to the wealthy Bertram family, stands as a bastion of English tradition and stability. The novel's heroine, Fanny Price, is a "poor relation" living with the Bertrams, acutely conscious of her inferior status and yet daring to love their son Edmund--but from afar. However, with five marriageable young people on the premises, the peace at Mansfield cannot last. Courtships, entertainments and intrigues throw the place into turmoil, and Fanny finds herself unwillingly competing with a dazzlingly witty and lovely rival. As critic Margaret Drabble has pointed out, the house becomes "full of the energies of discord--sibling rivalry, greed, ambition, illicit sexual passion, and vanity," and the novel becomes ever more engrossing as it builds to Mansfield's final scandal and, finally, a satisfying conclusion. Unique in its moral design and brilliant interplay of the forces of tradition and change, Mansfield Park was the first novel of Jane Austen's maturity, and the first in which the author turned her unerring eye on the concerns of English society at a time of great upheaval.
This has been called Jane Austen's finest work but it is probably the least popular, due to the unsympathetic nature of her heroine, Fanny Price, who, it cannot be denied, is a smug little Goody Two-Shoes. This is the novel in which nasty Aunt Norris commits outrage after outrage and finally gets her come-uppance. But it also contains the incomparable Lady Bertram, idlest woman in fiction, and, in fat ill-tempered Pug, Jane Austen's only dog. Review by Ruth Rendell, whose crime novels include 'The Bridesmaid' --Kirkus UK