Mansfield Park Read-Along ~ Week 1 Thoughts

The lovely and amazing Amber is hosting a Mansfield Park (by Jane Austen) Read-Along in the month of January!!!! Each week, we are discussing 12 chapters. We’re also tweeting as we go with the hashtag #MansfieldReadAlong!

No surprise, but I’m a *little* behind already (I blame it on life craziness and other really, really good books I’m currently reading). Anyway, this is my post all about these chapters following the format Amber has set. This is my first time reading Mansfield Park, so the read-along experience is adding to my excitement and absorption of the story!

Mansfield Park Read-along

Please go visit her discussion post to see other readers’ thoughts and post links, too!

Mansfield Park Volume I: Chapters 1-12

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week’s reading

Favorite Quotes

“It is unknown how much was consumed in our kitchen by odd comers and goers.” -chapter 3, the worrisome Mrs. Norris

“When he returned, to understand how Fanny was situated, and perceived its ill effects, there seemed with him but one thing to be done’ and that ‘Fanny must have a horse’ was the resolute declaration…” -Edmund, chapter 4 (this reminds me of a tiny part of North and South where Mr. Thornton has the wallpaper changed in consideration of Margaret ❤ )

“Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions; and, in observing the appearance of the country, the bearings of the roads, the difference of soil, the state of the harvest, the cottages, the cattle, the children, she found entertainment that could only have been heightened by having Edmund to speak to of what she felt.” -Fanny, chapter 8 (This is a telling passage, showing Fanny’s contentment in keeping things to herself and revealing her high esteem of Edmund’s companionship and conversation.)

General Impressions

IMG_20180103_205419_127.jpgBecause of my slight familiarity with the story (I’ve seen the 1999 BBC film only), I know a little of what to expect with how the main characters behave and are resolved. With that said, it’s a little surprising to me that so much focus is on everyone else at Mansfield Park while Fanny Price, the main character, seems pushed to the side. Clearly, the reader is to be most sympathetic with her and see how their treatment is influencing her life greatly. Maybe this minimum focus is intentional to make us feel her emotions, when expressed, more keenly?

The Bertrams are puzzling. Like Fanny, I care the most for Edmund, though he does concern me at times with his nearsightedness. The Miss Bertrams are just plain spoiled! And, the other men of the family, the Thomases (elder and son), haven’t been on the page quite long enough for me to judge them.

Mrs. Norris, the Rushworths, and the Crawfords are all colorful characters, if often self-centered, that are adding much humor and interest to the story so far. I’m anxious to see how entangled it all becomes — and how Fanny overcomes her situation.

3 Questions

1. Would you consider the Bertram family taking in Fanny to be a kindness in the long run? If so, why? If not, could it have been a kindness if they approached things differently?

Yes, in the long run, I think it will be. She is being raised to an advantage of education and exposure to a different class of people which was important at the time. Though I think she is treated as unwanted and as a nuisance at times, I believe her experiences are shaping her character. Thank goodness she has a kind friend in Edmund! That is the light in her situation.

2. If you were a governess teaching the Bertram children and Fanny, what lesson would you specifically choose for each of them (as kids or adults)? Feel free to have fun with this!

I would teach the Miss Bertrams about kindness and courtesy, Thomas Bertram about respect and the blessing of his family, Edmund Bertram about the danger of flirtatious women (ahem, Mary Crawford), and Fanny Price about bravery and the importance of her individuality (I think she puts too much stock into “standards” her relatives dictate).

3. Imagine you had joined the group on their visit to Sotherton. Which part of the tour would you most have enjoyed? Would we find you wandering the halls or meandering through the wilderness?

You would find me out in the wilderness, perhaps even climbing over the gate (but not arm in arm with Mr. Crawford).

 

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my musings on Mansfield Park?

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Final Read-along Discussion Post: North and South

The North and South read-along is officially over! It was so fun to read this classic by Elizabeth Gaskell. This is the last of the discussion questions. This post is hosted by Suey, so head over to her post to find links for everyone else!

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North and South Final Discussion Questions

1.  There’s much talk about all the deaths in this book. What are your feelings on that? Do you think they were necessary? Or too much?

Mmm, they were all necessary to the story, though at times they were very sad. They each inspired a reaction (or lack thereof) in different characters.

2. Was there anything that happened during this last part that you found surprising or unexpected? Or was everything very predictable?

It’s been so long since I have seen the miniseries, I forgot a few details of the later portions. Other than the “killed cat” moment (ahem, moving on….), I thought that Margaret’s falling back into her old habits as Edith’s companion was a bit unexpected. I was glad when she stood up for herself a bit later and wanted to make her own choices.

3. What are your feelings on the about face Margaret and Mr. Thornton have with regard to their financial status?

For one thing, it forced them to have to correspond with each other again. On a deeper level, I think it proves the strength of character they both possess. Their change in fortune did not effect their personalities or demeanors by making them greedy or proud.

4. Do you think Margaret is justified in being so anguished over the lie that she told? Does it mostly have to do with her feelings for Mr. Thornton? Or something else?

She certainly spent a lot of time dwelling on the fact that Mr. Thornton didn’t know the truth! I think it had more to do with her feelings for him. Once she asked God’s forgiveness, she should have been satisfied personally, though she had to live with the consequences of it.

5. At what moment exactly do you think her feelings for Mr. Thornton completely changed?

At the moment when he covered for her being at the train station. He really lied for her, because he knew she was in the area with a man. In a way, his deliberate lie, to protect her, was very much like her lie to protect Frederick. Maybe this showed her Thornton’s capacity to care was similar to her love for her brother.

6. Discuss the character of Nicholas Higgins. What do you think about the relationship he has with Mr. Thornton? Did he change Mr. Thornton? Did Mr. Thornton change him?

Nicholas began as a character I liked, but didn’t really love. He changes, though, through everything he goes through with Bessy and Boucher. He became an endearing character; one who represented the working man and all his opinions to the story.

I think his relationship with Mr. Thornton changed both of them. I think, for the first time, their relationship caused each to view the other just as a man, not as a master or worker. Their common goal of providing for their family helped to unite them.

7. How does Mr. Thornton’s views on the master/worker relationship change? Or. . .did it change? Did your view on this issue change as you experienced this book?

His views changed some. Proof comes with his implementation/experiment of a new kitchen area available to his workers. I think he began to see ways he could provide for his workers beyond a fair job at a fair wage.

My view didn’t change. I enjoyed following both sides of the issue and seeing how they ended up working together (not without their trials, though). But I still say I’m on Thornton’s side.

8. Do you have a favorite quote from this book? If so, share and let us know why it’s your favorite.

This book has so many quotable lines!!! I think my favorite, though, is this from chapter 20: “He knew it was the first time their hands had met, though she was perfectly unconscious of the fact.”

I also love this line from Nicholas Higgins: “Any yet, yo see, North and South has both met and made kind o’ friends in this big smoky place.”

9. The ending! Are you happy with how things turned out? (Try not to compare with the movie here… that’s for a later question!)

Yes!!! I’m completely happy with how the story turned out. It did feel slightly abrupt – I would have been happy with a few more pages of John and Margaret getting settled and speaking with their families. But, I am good with how it was resolved. I know that Gaskell had to make the length of it fit at the time in Charles Dickens’ publication. And the roses were sweet 🙂

10. What aspect of this book would you like to address that we haven’t yet talked about? Is there something we’ve skipped over in our discussions that makes you want to say… “Yeah, but what about….?”  And if you’ve got nothing there, answer this: Did you like the book? Why or why not?

Hmm, the one thing we didn’t discuss was the fact that Fanny finally got married. Didn’t she supposedly marry a wealthy man in trade? Why couldn’t he help Mr. Thornton? I do wonder that.

BONUS MOVIE QUESTION:

If you’ve already seen the movie, go ahead… now is your chance to compare the two!

Ok, so I definitely love both the book and the miniseries, for separate reasons. The book is so richly detailed, and we see Mr. Thornton’s point of view. The movie, though, provides a visual for the characters and the setting. The movie has a different first meeting and a totally different ending sequence, which I am happy about. The kiss-less book ending is appropriate for that era of literature, I know. So for us in modern times, we have the series to watch and be happy about.

 

Thank you to Suey, Jenni, and Kami for hosting this fun read-along! It’s the first one I’ve participated in, and it has been fun and memorable.

Do you agree with my answers for this final discussion? Have you seen the miniseries? I’d love to hear your thoughts on either!

Read-along Discussion Post 1: North and South

Ya’ll, if you’ve never read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, you’re seriously missing out on a great story and some beautiful arrangements of words. We don’t have quite the same vocabulary – or at least the flourish – as they did in the Victorian era. But this means we can admire and enjoy their stories!

So far, we’re 1/3 through with the read-along hosted by Kami, Suey, and Jenni. This means our first discussion post is upon us! Jenni is hosting it; and she’s come up with some great questions for this round. We’re linking up at her post, so be sure to add your link and explore everyone’s thoughts thus far! Also, we had quite the discussion on Twitter with the #NorthSouthRAL hashtag.North-and-South-Read-Along-600x408

1. Is this your first time reading this? If so, what do you think so far? If not, are you liking this reread so far? 

This is my first time reading it! It is better than I expected, actually. I wasn’t sure how entertaining it would be. Sometimes older books are hard to relate to or move too slow. BUT, it’s not that way. The plot moves at a nice pace and the themes seem to be relevant. Plus, the descriptions and history of the era intrigue me.

2. Have you seen the BBC mini-series? Is the book anything like you expected it to be?\

Yes, I have seen it once! So far, the series did stay very close to the book. And, like it was mentioned on Twitter, the casting of all of the characters in the miniseries was very well done.

3. Why do you think Margaret refused Henry? He seems like such a nice chap?

I think she refused him because she didn’t love him. (Perhaps another Pride & Prejudice nod, @moonlight_reads?)

4. What are your first impressions of Mr. Thornton?

Hmmm. With a mental picture of Richard Armitage, it’s hard not to focus on his looks, as Gaskell explains early on 🙂 With that said, he first became an acquaintance of Mr. Hale through whom he connected with a house to rent, etc. So maybe as a considerate person and friend to the Hales? After learning more about his character, it’s clear he deeply cares for the happiness of his mother and sister, Fanny. And he is fair in business.

5. Why is Margaret so indifferent to Mr. Thornton, but she can make friends with the Higgins? They are both northern people and have different customs.

I think Margaret has stereotyped Mr. Thornton as a proud “tradesman”, though she is unaware of the full extent of her feelings. The Higgins family is more comfortable to her. She has called upon “the poor” in the past to aid them, so the Higginses are a new outlet for this habit.

6. Compare the two moms we’ve seen in the story.

They are soooo different! Mrs. Hale is frail, sickly, and annoying in the fact that she pays Margaret little attention. And when she does, it is completely for her benefit to make her tea or sooth her. Mrs. Hale is decidedly selfish.

Mrs. Thornton, on the other hand, is confident and very involved in the day to day life of her son. She comes across as a little stiff and snobby, but I think that is just a crusty outer layer. In chapter 12, we see that she just has a different way of communicating her feelings.

7. What differences are you seeing so far between the north and the south?

Aside from the country/city differences, I think the larger scope of classes living in the north is significant. It allows for more complicated relationships between people (masters/workers, Hales/Thorntons, Margaret/Higgins’).

8. Do you think Mr. Hale was justified in leaving the church and his position?
I do think so. I admire him for standing up for his faith.

9. What are your feelings on Frederick’s situation?

If only I could remember how that comes into play later in the story……

But, it is unfortunate. It’s so sad that they couldn’t really communicate with him.

10. What are your thoughts on the master and worker relationship?

It’s a very interesting situation. One that is definitely relevant today. I can see both sides of the situation, though I do think the masters are more aware of the markets and how all that works. At least Mr. Thornton is known to be fair to his workers 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings about North and South! Have you read anything by Elizabeth Gaskell? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Happy Sunday!