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My friend Rose is thirteen and she loves to read, so I asked for her opinion of the Real Reads adaptation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. I’ve written about the Real Reads adaptations of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, but this time around I wanted to hear from someone in the target audience for these abridged versions of Austen’s novels – someone who hasn’t yet read Mansfield Park itself. The Real Reads Austen books are retold by Gill Tavner and illustrated by Ann Kronheimer.

I’m very happy to share Rose’s guest post with you, as part of the ongoing celebrations of 200 years of Mansfield Park. Rose lives in Massachusetts, and her favourite books include Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, by Rick Riordan, The Mortal Instruments series, by Cassandra Clare, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green, and Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters, by Lesley M. Blume. This last one, she says, is “the sweetest, saddest, happiest, book I will ever read in my entire life,” and she tells me her favourite word from that book is “defenestrate.” I hope you enjoy reading her review.

Real Reads Mansfield Park

Can I first say that it has got to be tough to fit such a giant book into this tiny, cute, little illustrated thing. I read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and it was big and complicated, mainly because the characters were too. This adaptation was really interesting to read and I haven’t read the full Mansfield Park so I knew nothing about what was supposed to or not supposed to happen. Just after I finished reading I was disappointed. The characters were a little boring and Fanny just annoyed me.

I thought it over more and realized that of course the characters are flat; this thing was a little over 50 pages. Fanny wasn’t annoying, she was human. A lot of characters I see are brave and strong and smart, their only flaw being their pride and overconfidence. It is rare and kind of neat to see someone uncomfortable and weak who does turn out to be the hero of the story.

Something else I was uncomfortable with was how unclear it was whether or not Edmund loves Fanny back. The point of view we saw made it seem one-sided. The short amount of space we had to let this happen made it seem like he wasn’t over Mary but he “needed” a wife. This made me feel almost like Fanny was being taken advantage of because she was so adoring. I was and still am curious to see what really happened.

These ideas, although simplified, need more explanation and depth for me to get them. This adaptation made me want to read the original book and hopefully will do the same for other young people. I honestly can’t wait until I see the characters as they really are and watch them grow. I am glad I read this to help me understand and grab my interest but it isn’t all that great on its own. My conclusion: read Mansfield Park in its entirety.

Read more about introducing Austen’s novels to younger readers on my page “Jane Austen for Kids.”