A Tale of Two Novels

I just closed Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park," the only one of her six main novels I hadn't bothered to read before (if you count mostly finishing "Sense and Sensibility"). But I really, really liked Fanny Price's story--right up there with "Pride and Prejudice" and "Emma."

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!)
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I've heard generic booing and hissing of the movie ... is it worth renting? "Freely adapted from" usually portends ominous alterations.
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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.

4 comments:

Janet Rubin said...

I'll put it on The List.
Guess what? Someone had given me a $20 gift card to Borders and last night I went to use it. Got me a copy of Leepike Ridge, came home and read 50 pages. Wonderful! I like this line: "After a few mouthfuls of moon-flavored air, even the stubbornly drowsy can find themselves wide-eyed."

Noel De Vries said...

See? Toljya.

brilynne said...

I'm waaaaay back in your archives now. Just had to comment on this one, because I just had a conversation with someone about how we both were shocked to find someone else who liked Mansfield Park. The jacket on my copy was so snarky that I figured I must be the only one in the world who sympathized with Fanny.

Oh, and I loved Celia's House, too. Isn't that the Stevenson where she decides to marry young Lochinvar?

S. Mehrens said...

Oooh! Celia's House is going on my TBR list. Great review. I can't wait to read it. I finished Miss Buncle's Book. Watch for my review next week. :)