Young Fanny Price comes to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, at Mansfield Park in the county of Northampton. Fanny is a timid and shy young girl from a much poorer branch of the family (her mother having married beneath her) and she is left under no illusion from her other aunt, Mrs Norris, that she is very lucky to be taken into the Bertram's household. At Mansfield Park, Fanny comes into the orbit of the privileged Bertram children: Tom, the eldest, who becomes a drinker and gambler; the two girls, Maria and Julia, who are shallow and vain and indifferent to Fanny's feelings; and it is only the younger son, Edmund, who shows Fanny any real kindness and affection. As Fanny reaches young adulthood, her liking for Edmund develops into something stronger, but with the arrival into the neighbourhood of the very attractive Crawford siblings, Henry and Mary, everything seems to change, especially when Fanny begins to realise that Edmund is rather smitten with the beautiful and sparkling Mary. And then Henry starts to pay special attention to Fanny - but is he serious? And are Henry and Mary quite as charming as they initially seem?
As a heroine, Fanny Price may appear a little too moralistic and virtuous for some modern day readers to be able to identify with well, but her aunt, the dreadful Mrs Norris, who makes it her life's mission to make Fanny feel inferior, is a very convincing character whose behaviour towards her niece will soon have the reader sympathising with poor Fanny and hoping that she will finally be rewarded with the suitor she deserves. However, there is a lot more to this complex coming of age novel than the 'will they - won't they' aspect of Fanny and Edmund's romance, and one of the main purposes of this review is to talk about the lovely new Vintage Classic editions of Jane Austen's classics. This particular novel has a charming cover designed by artist and illustrator Leanne Shapton, with inner flaps to the cover to make the book feel more substantial, is attractively decorated on the inside and has a brief, but interesting introduction by Amanda Vickery. Lovely to handle, entertaining to read - if you are looking for a paperback copy of this novel, and do not require a comprehensive introduction and notes, I can definitely recommend this new edition.
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