Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
TYPE OF AUSTENESQUE NOVEL: Sequel to a Mansfield Park variation, A Contrary Wind
TIME FRAME: Begins a year and a half after the close of A Contrary Wind, Fanny is 20.
SERIES: Book 2 of 3? Potential readers should read A Contrary Wind first to fully appreciate and understand all that is taking place in this second book of the series.
Following her inventive and thoughtful Mansfield Park variation which explored what happens if Fanny Price, tired of being told she was an ungrateful burden to the Bertram family, decided to take control of her own future, Lona Manning continues to follow the members of the Bertram, Price, and Crawford families, who are on decidedly divergent paths from their courses in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. In this sequel readers will observe how Fanny is making a new life for herself outside London and see more of her friends Mrs. Butters and writer, William Gibson, follow Lieutenant William Price in his naval missions to Africa, and witness the estranged relationship between Edmund and Mary.
WHAT I LOVED:
- Captured Their Voices: One thing that continues to impress me most about Lona Manning’s writing is her deft and developed depictions of Jane Austen’s characters. It is not every author that I say this about but I feel Lona Manning is quite skilled in capturing the voice and matching the tone and style of Jane Austen’s characters. I especially thought this with the letters exchanged between Mary and Edmund in this story. Mary’s cleverness and subtle conniving and Edmund’s rigidity and strong moral compass are expertly portrayed.
- Fanny and Edmund: It is no small feat to take characters that many Jane Austen fans dislike and find ways to represent their characters that garner more admiration and inspire esteem. Even though Fanny is painfully shy and has sometimes wants to run and hide, readers will applaud the moments when Fanny gathers her courage and bravely holds her head up high. And while we all know Edmund has some weakness and blindness when it comes to Mary Crawford, in this series we see what happens after his eyes are opened and how he struggles with his feelings of betrayal and disillusionment as he determines what is the right course for him to take. It was interesting to see new sides and slight alterations to these characters and yet know that in fundamentals they have not changed.
- Secondary Characters: I am thoroughly enjoying the secondary characters – those created by Jane Austen and those created by Lona Manning – we meet and see more of in this tale. I’ve always loved William Price and I am so glad he is featured a lot in this series – especially since his story-line has some romance in it! In addition, Mrs. Butters is a true champion of Fanny and I love her strength, compassion, and open candor. And lastly, I found a lot to admire in William Gibson. Although I was not so sure about him at first, I love how he saw, understood, and appreciated so much about Fanny, (minus a few misunderstandings!) Other characters such as John Price, the Blodgetts, the Delingpoles, and the Bellinghams were all interesting inclusions that added richly to this story’s cast.
- Historical Tie-Ins and Extras: Included in the back matter of this book is a wealth of helpful information for readers – a list of Dramatis Personae, an afterward, background information, and discussion questions for Mansfield Park, A Contrary Wind, and A Marriage of Attachment. I enjoyed perusing all these extra materials, and it was lovely to learn more about the author’s creation of this story. And I was impressed to learn how many of the characters and events used in this story were real people and events! What clever and plausible ways Ms. Lona found to include them in her story!
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
- Balance and Pacing: Just a minor quibble, there were some moments of higher activity and development that I would have liked more page time for – especially when it came to our couples. I also felt some of the events of the conclusion were a little fast-paced.
Well-crafted, meticulously composed, and richly researched – A Marriage of Attachment is another remarkable and praiseworthy story by this skilled author! This series is definitely a perfect choice for readers who love stories that plausibly flesh out Jane Austen’s characters and are not afraid to implement some surprising new twists.