The reason for my warm praise, however, has more to do with a much lesser-known English author, D.E. Stevenson, who wrote a novel I fell in love with at age 12: "Celia's House." Imagine my surprise when "Mansfield Park" turned out to be Stevenson's obvious model!
She echoed every particular of Jane Austen's plot--a sweet, neglected niece, two vain, flirtatious cousins, a dangerous wooer, a spirited theatrical production, a calm, brown-eyed cousin worthy of any girl's love. Despite Austen's undeniable artistry, though, "Celia's House" will always hold a higher place in my affections. It's such a lovely story--completely indebted to Jane Austen, but really, really lovely in itself, as well. In point of fact, I prefer Stevenson's Mark to Austen's Edmund. (gasp!)
I've heard generic booing and hissing of the movie ... is it worth renting? "Freely adapted from" usually portends ominous alterations.
Whatever the case, "Mansfield Park" reminded me of an old love, and brought up a favorite musing, the scholarship of imagination, the debt each new generation owes to the minds of their artistic forebearers.
If you don't have time for a hefty Austen novel, pick up D.E. Stevenson's "Celia's House." You may have to inter-loan an old, tattered copy, but the story is worth your trouble.