Customer Review

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming, and genuinely funny, 27 Feb 2010
This review is from: Mansfield Park and Mummies: Monster Mayhem, Matrimony, Ancient Curses, True Love, and Other Dire Delights (Paperback)
I really enjoyed Mansfield Park and Mummies, despite not being a big fan of Jane Austen. The prose is seamless, and if it wasn't for the references to Egyptology or the supernatural it would be almost impossible to tell where Austen ends and Nazarian begins. What's more, the choices in terms of supernatural elements she adds are used in a logical fashion. The mummies of the title are brought about by the Lady Bertram, and are used to explain why she is always so distracted and vague. Lycanthropy is used to good effect to make Mrs Norris even less likable than she already is, and it also serves to make Mr Rushworth less desirable as a suitor to Maria Bertram. I did flinch a bit at the change to Mary Crawford making her a vampire because true to their undead nature they just won't seem to die at the moment. It is treated with great care though, never overdone, and it only serves to make her seduction of poor Edmund even more dangerous.

Nazarian's alterations are also genuinely funny when she wants them to be. She uses comic timing to perforate some of the books more serious conversations with almost slapstick comedy in the background, such as Mr Rushworth chasing and devouring a squirrel, or with an appearance the dreaded Brighton duck. The mummies are also funny, usually to be found banging into walls or preying on some helpless startled maid, keeping her from her duties and getting her into trouble. There are also a series of increasingly humourous footnotes chastising us for having dirty thoughts when misinterpreting Austen's use of words for their more colloquial modern meanings, imploring us to be sensible or she'll be forced to report us to the moral authorities.

The real strength of the novel to me though was the way that Nazarian writes Fanny. One of her main strengths as writer is her ability to create believable strong female characters, and she does a great job with Fanny. In the original Mansfield Park she is a character who received a lot of criticism for representing out of date Regency morals, and being rather unlikable because of it. Nazarian takes that strong moral sense, and marries it to a no-nonsense attitude towards the supernatural. As she becomes surer of herself and her place at Mansfield Park, she also begins to fight off the mummy infestation and stand up to Mary Crawford, knowing what she is.

When I finished reading Mansfield Park and Mummies I was a little agitated, because I realised something insidious had occurred. With a little common sense and some mental arithmetic, I could remove Nazarian's additions and be left with just Mansfield Park. I had been tricked into reading Jane Austen, and I had enjoyed it. The novel is utterly charming, and while it is quite different to her original stories, it still retains a strong sense of her own work, despite the emulation of Austen's style. She is currently working on a second Austen mash-up novel, Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons, which I personally feel lends itself even more to this type of thing. Recommended to everyone, especially to people who don't really think Jane Austen is their sort of thing, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
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Location: England

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