Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
TYPE OF AUSTENESQUE NOVEL: Alternate Point-of-View of Mansfield Park
TIME FRAME: Begins with the Crawfords’ arrival at Mansfield Parsonage
SYNOPSIS: Many Austen fans find it hard to love Fanny Price, her timid meekness and unerring morality perhaps make her a bit unlikable to readers. Author Kyra Kramer has decided that another character from Mansfield Park deserves a chance to have their story told – the worldly and witty, Mary Crawford. In this tale we see Mansfield Park from Mary Crawford’s point-of-view, and witness first-hand her thoughts and feelings of all that takes place during and after her visit to Mansfield Parsonage.
WHAT I LOVED:
- Mary Crawford’s POV: I love that this novel exists, and I wish more novels like this should exist! I love reading about Jane Austen’s secondary characters and seeing them have a chance to become a heroine or hero of their own tale. While I typically root for and am fond of Fanny Price, I can’t say I dislike Mary Crawford. I am so glad that Ms. Kramer decided to let Mary have her say!
- Something MORE About Mary: In Mansfield Park, we see that Mary is knowledgable, witty, and a charming conversationalist. She has much in common with Jane Austen’s most popular heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. I loved learning more about Mary and seeing more of her interests and beliefs in this tale – not just the light-hearted bon mots and playful arguments. I loved seeing her strong feelings about slavery, her personal views on politics, her yen to travel far and wide, and her interests and knowledge of other cultures. Moreover, I admired Mary’s thoughtful and progressive views; she is indeed an intelligent and informed lady.
- Sibling Love: I greatly enjoyed seeing more of life at Mansfield Parsonage and Dr. and Mrs. Grant. Mrs. Grant truly is a loving and giving character that you cannot help but like. It was lovely to see her devotion and love for her siblings. Some of my favorite scenes in this story are between Mrs. Grant and Mary or Henry and Mary, it was lovely to witness these private conversations where theses characters can reveal their true thoughts and not fear disapprobation. I especially loved seeing how fond and devoted Henry and Mary are towards each other, it contrasts greatly with the Bertram siblings. The Crawfords’ loyalty and affection for each other is a delight.
WHAT I HAVE MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT:
- Additional Tidbits: I admire all the research and informative historical backdrop Ms. Kramer provided in this tale. Her research and study of this time period are evident in every description of clothing/scenery and in every discussion about real historical events/gossip. However, combined with the gossip/events of fictitious characters of the ton, it did start to feel a little too much in some parts. For example, I loved witnessing Mary receive a witzchoura and her delight in discussing Lady Caroline Lamb’s scandalous behavior with Lord Byron, but I really wasn’t interested in seeing her gossip with Henry about mutual town acquaintances that we never meet on page.
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
- Not Entirely a Heroine I Love: While I grew to like and admire Mary Crawford more in this tale, I didn’t find myself completely warming to her as a heroine. Her confused feelings over Edmund and her fears of a miserable marriage are ones I can understand and sympathize with, but her unromantic, cold heart (as she describes it multiple times) and proclivity to seek out/protect her own self-interest I think prevented me from becoming completely endeared to her as a heroine. But perhaps that may change in the future.
- Narrative Remarks: I wasn’t very fond of seeing some negative comments against Fanny in the narrative. It felt a little heavy-handed for the narrator to strongly point out Fanny’s “resentful” and “worm-eaten heart.” I know this may have been to increase our sympathies towards Mary instead of Fanny, but it felt unsupported since Fanny never acts on these jealous or resentful feelings and remains civil, albeit a little cold.
Despite some quibbles, I am full of appreciation for his much needed addition to the Austenesque genre. There are so many engaging facets to this encompassing tale, and I applaud Kyra Kramer for her meticulous attention towards every detail and her skillful renderings of Jane Austen’s original characters. This story seems to end with a promise of more, and I am so hoping that is true because I would love to see more from Kyra Kramer!