Jane Austen’s most autobiographical and political novel, Mansfield Park may also be her least read work. Unlike the more popular Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, Austen’s third published novel, which appeared in 1814, Mansfield Park seems cut from a very different cloth. For that reason alone it’s intriguing—and worth reading. Written at a time when Austen had recently relocated, Mansfield Park follows Fanny Price as she is uprooted from her childhood home and sent to live with her rich relatives. Not a typical Austen heroine, Fanny is introverted and awkward. She seems the perfect foil for the beautiful and charismatic Mary Crawford. Austen’s many references to the slave trade, which had recently been abolished in England, add an unusual political element to her usual social satire. This beautiful Mansfield Park: An Annotated Edition (Harvard, $35), with authoritative and illustrative commentary by Deidre Shauna Lynch, Harvard’s Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature, caps Harvard’s fine Jane Austen Annotated Editions series; like its companion volumes, it encourages a slow, thoughtful reading of the story and appreciation for the world in which Jane Austen lived and wrote.
Mansfield Park: An Annotated Edition - Jane Austen, Deidre Lynch