"I was doubtful, I admit, before starting this novel – not another Austen-look-alike… but actually, I quite enjoyed this one! "
Family Drama / Romance / Austen Spin-off
“Fanny Price, an intelligent but timid girl from a poor family, lives at Mansfield Park with her wealthy cousins. But the cruelty of her Aunt Norris, together with a broken heart, compel Fanny to run away and take a job as a governess. Far away from everything she ever knew and the man she secretly loves, will Fanny grow in strength and confidence? Will a new suitor help her to forget her past? Or will a reckless decision ruin her life and the lives of those she holds most dear?”
I was doubtful, I admit, before starting this novel – not another Austen-look-alike… but actually, I quite enjoyed this one! It is a variation of Mansfield Park, a sort of ‘what-if alternative fiction’ version. There are familiar characters from Austen’s novel and some new ones to enjoy (although I was not so enthusiastic about some of these new ones). Unlike Austen, however, there are a few ‘adult’ scenes so some readers may not like the addition of these.
Austen’s Fanny Price is a bit of a 'Marmite'* character, a personal preference - you either like or loathe her. I confess I am in the latter category. Mansfield Park is not one of my favourites, but I rather liked Ms Manning’s exploration of Fanny. The familiar Fanny is there at first, alongside the characters and events of Mansfield Park, but Ms Manning has added a new and intriguing dimension to the original plot, to Fanny, and some of the other characters, which show them all in a different light because we are looking at the story from a different angle and through totally different events – A Contrary Wind indeed, blowing everything along on a different, in in my opinion, much more interesting course.
There are some nitpicks, minor things, mostly where there is a slight clash of continuity with Austen’s descriptions of her characters, but does this matter? Not really! The novel is well written, engrossing, well researched and overall, well done.
Enjoyable and entertaining.
© Anne Holt
* Marmite a UK foodstuff best (in my opinion) spread on toast. It has a strong, salty, taste and you either love it or hate it - hence the expression ' a marmite choice'.