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!)
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.


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. :)