Saturday, September 16, 2017

Seeking Mansfield

Seeking Mansfield. Kate Watson. 2017. 300 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Finley Price was a fool.

Premise/plot: Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson is a YA adaption of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. Finley Price lives with the Bertrams, but she's not related to the Bertrams. Finley's father was fraternity brothers with Mr. Bertram, I believe. After her father's death and her mother's breakdown, the Bertrams took her in and raised her as one of her own. Finley is particularly close with the two Bertram sons, Tate and Oliver. There is a sister as well, but, Finley isn't close with her. Finley's one-big-passion is the theatre, and her one-big-dream is to direct. Harlan Crawford, and his sister Emma, come to town. Harlan Crawford is a teen celebrity, as a child actor he worked with Finley's dad. These two start to date just as Emma begins to date Oliver. Does Finley have what it takes to be in the spotlight?

My thoughts: I had a love-hate relationship with this one. It would be a fair question to ask if I have an equally love-hate relationship with the original Austen novel. I think hate is a strong word. It's a complex novel with complex characters. With such complexities, readers can interpret things subjectively.

For example, in the original is Henry Crawford evil incarnate? Was he truly in love with Fanny? Was he manipulated into a compromising situation? There is depth and substance to Austen's work. You can read it several times and still come away with insights--newer, stronger, better. You can respectfully disagree with other readers. You can see things from other perspectives. You can see other points that are valid--just as valid as your own.

Seeking Mansfield lacks complexity. The characterization is superficial. The creativity comes in the details, not the characterization. The novel is rooted in a contemporary setting. Instead of characters being concerned about Fanny borrowing/owning a horse, the matter is should she have her own cell phone. If she does have her own cell phone, should the phone be a hand-me-down phone or a new phone? If she does get her own cell phone, should it be a smart phone? The only meanie the author has left in place is Aunt Nora. Nora hasn't been updated one little bit. And every scene with Nora in it is cringe-worthy. Because she just doesn't belong in this retelling--at least not with a modern update or twist.

Are the characters true to Austen's originals? Not really. I think every single character in Mansfield Park--but especially Fanny, Edmund, Mary, and Henry--is often misunderstood. How you react to the novel--love it, hate it--depends on how you "read" each character and their relationship to all the others.

In Seeking Mansfield, Oliver is madly in love with Finley from start to finish. He doesn't think of her as a sister; he doesn't take her for granted; Finley is never underappreciated by him; he does not begin to neglect her because he's attracted to someone else. In fact, lusty thoughts of Finley play in his mind often. Oliver bears little in resemblance to Edmund Bertram.

I was most disappointed in the character of Harlan. He's just not all that believable as a fleshed-out character. I think when a certain page count was reached, it was like a switch went off--better make him evil incarnate now.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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