Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Recent Reads Reviewed (sort of)

While I have written literally hundreds of critical reviews during my years as an English Major at BYU, what follows is certainly not that. I love books...I always have. I love reading all kinds of books. They enhance my life and my mind. If you are interested in reading, this post might interest you...then again it might make you mad, or disgusted. It might even make you wonder at my mental abilities or you might think you don't want to read my blog again. Feel free to share your reactions with me, but remember...if you are mean...I will cry.

So...if that hasn't sent you off and running, here are a few thoughts on books I've recently finished reading:

Book #1 Jane Austen's Mansfield Park

I am sad to admit that this is the first time I have actually finished reading Mansfield Park. I certainly consider myself an Austen fan, but somehow I could not get myself to get past about Chapter 10 of Volume 1. Why was this so? How could it have been that someone who has thoroughly read (and analyzed) Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Emma and Persuasion could have failed to read this Austen novel (I'll just get all of the confessions out now and admit that I have also failed to read Northanger Abbey...there, I've said it - condemn me if you must)? I came to this conclusion.

Mansfield Park is a wonderful novel, but you have to be able to push through Volume 1. The character of Fanny, though interesting and endearing in her own way, is not the vibrant, exhilarating character we have so deeply loved in other Austen novels. Fanny is frail, quiet and painfully incapable of standing up for herself (remember folks, we're talking about Volume 1 here). She is not the stunning heroine, lacking characteristics which would otherwise have us turning pages at an astonishing rate to learn more.

We are further unsatisfied with Fanny's love interest, Edmund. He is proper, presumably handsome and wise, but his lack of judgement toward the Crawfords (which becomes more and more obvious throughout the novel) leaves us feeling wholly unsatisfied in Fanny's choice. He is no Mr. Knightley, nor does his character intrigue the senses like Mr. Darcy. In short, we like both Edmund and Fanny, but we are not drawn to their characters as we have been with other Austen heroes and heroines.

Volume 2 produces greater interest in both Edmund and Fanny as the story becomes more complex. With no one else to chase, Mr. Crawford turns his attentions to Fanny in an effort to divert himself for a time, but as he becomes fixed on Fanny's character, so do we. By Volume 3 we are turning pages at an astonishing rate as the story becomes more clever, outrageous (with the eventual scandalous behavior of Crawford and Maria Bertram) and pathetic (Tom's illness and Edmund's realization of the faults of Mary Crawford).

I must own that I was dissatisfied with the ending of the novel. While Edmund does turn to Fanny after his awakening, the bestowal of his love on the deserving Fanny seems to fall flat and for all intents and purposes, he "settles" for Fanny as does, it would seem, the entire Bertram family. I thought Fanny deserved better for her unwavering devotion to the Bertrams at large and Edmund in particular.

There is no good film version of Mansfield Park and I doubt there ever will be. Mainly because it would take too long to "get through" the slow pace and difficulties of Volume 1 and still maintain viewer interest (for everyone in the world who is not an Austen aficionado). This is problematic; because, while Volume 1 is the least interesting part of the novel, it truly does lay the ground work for what will come in the rest of the novel. Alas, dear friends, I fear we will not see a better version than those which have already been produced.

Book #2 - C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair

I won't take too much time with this book. I will say...I love it.

My husband and I have been reading each of the Chronicles of Narnia together (we just read one chapter a night - it works for us). The treatment of theology for young people is brilliant, inspiring and truly awe inspiring. If you haven't ever read the are missing out. I would recommend you They are short, very interesting and doctrinally astounding. Do read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe first and then continue through the series. Watch for allusions to Christ (Aslan, the magnificent lion, represents Jesus Christ) & you'll be amazed at the insights into the Atonement you will enjoy.

Book #3 - Rachel Ann Nunes' The Independence Club

Generally speaking, I stay away from "LDS Fiction." Most of the time, I feel that the writing isn't very exciting and there a tendency toward the cliche. I bought this book as a gift originally, but kept it and decided to read it myself. I admit, it was a very quick read and rather enjoyable.

The book chronicles the stories of 5 single LDS women who, though different in age and situation, find strength in friendship. Each of the women finds love in shockingly short periods of time and by the end of the book, they are all seemingly attached to a love interest. There is a predictability about the women and their relationships and in the end it all seems to be wrapped up a little bit too nicely for my taste, but I can still recommend the book as a good light read.


Hillary said...

Thanks for the book reviews!

Cheryl said...

1st off, I am humiliated that I haven't finished C.S. Lewis' books. So sad, eh?

Now, I have to tell you that I hope you are feeling better. Are you feeling better? I hope so!

Okay, 3rd, thank you for the Nunes recommendation. I like light reads.

Lastly --

YES!!! That is exactly what Mansfield Park is about. That is exactly how you should react at the end when Fanny finally "gets" Edmund. Fanny is not the best heroine...we never feel happy about her or her situation. Exactly!! You get it! Hooray! That was a fabulous review and I will always remember that Leslie is a genius at plot and character reviews.

Thank you!!

Richelle said...

I loved the Chronicles. I read all of them in the first couple months of my son's life. Lots of time nursing and rocking a baby worked great for reading, for a while.

Chelan said...

Well, I might as well just confess it all right now. I haven't read any of those. I'm just trying to nail down daily scripture reading! I love the "idea" of being able to sit and read but I have so much trouble letting myself relax for that long! Maybe someday...???

Amber said...

Great selections! I love Jane A's movies but her books were tedious for me to read. I guess I just like to look beyond the fluff to the substance and whiel her books have both, there is a lot of fluff!

Jeanette said...

Wonderful, spot on review of Mansfield Park! That is pretty much how I feel but you said it much better than I ever could! :-)
I have not read the other two...

stephi k said...

I loved reading your reviews. I think Jane Austen is a genius at nailing human nature and creating believable characters. The fact that Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey are not the most riveting reads makes me feel like not every writer is perfect and there's hope for me!
Are you on GoodReads? I love writing reviews on there and it goes out to all my friends. Kirsten is on my list of friend on it--I'll try to send you a link.

Leslie said...

Hey Stephi...if you see this...I'd love the link!