Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
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Mansfield Park is named for the magnificent, idyllic estate that is home to the wealthy Bertram family and that serves as a powerful symbol of English tradition and stability. The novel's heroine, Fanny Price - a "poor relation" living with the Bertrams - is acutely conscious of her inferior status and yet she dares to love their son Edmund - from afar. With five marriageable young people on the premises, the peace at Mansfield cannot last. Courtships, entertainments, and intrigues throw the place into turmoil, and Fanny finds herself unwillingly competing with a dazzlingly witty and lovely rival. As Margaret Drabble points out in her incisive Introduction, the house becomes "full of the energies of discord - sibling rivalry, greed, ambition, illicit sexual passion, and vanity", and the novel grows ever more engrossing right up to Mansfield's final scandal and the satisfying conclusion. Unique in its moral design and its brilliant interplay of the forces of tradition and change, Mansfield Park was the first novel of Jane Austen's maturity, and the first in which the author turned her unerring eye on the concerns of English society at a time of great upheaval.