Review by MJ Ryan
Some books benefit by merely being better than the one I’ve read before. While it would be easy to include Mansfield Park Revisited into that category, the fact that I finished the book in one day and cared about what happened to the characters proves that, gosh darn it, Mansfield Park Revisited was good.
Set four years after the conclusion of Mansfield Park, the story opens with the revelation that Sir Thomas has just died in Antigua and Tom or Edmund must travel there to settle the West Indies business. Lady Bertram deems it too dangerous for Tom, the new Sir Thomas, to travel to the tropics in light of the fever he contracted there years before. Edmund and Fanny are dispatched and spend the entirety of the book off page in Antigua.
Susan Price has taken her sister Fanny’s place at Mansfield Park as the companion to Lady Bertram. Similar to Fanny in many ways, but with more backbone, she keeps the household running and is the lone voice of reason for much of the book. Her good sense of propriety is tested when she discovers, too late, that Mary Crawford, now married to a Baron and deathly ill, has let the White House in hopes that returning to a scene of such happy memories, and the Mansfield Park air, will restore her to better health. There is also the expectation of repairing the broken friendship of her dear Fanny. Susan calls to break the news that Fanny and Edmund will be away from Mansfield for 6 months, at least, and much like her sister four years earlier, is drawn to the engaging, though faded, Mary Crawford.
Aiken has a canny ability to stay true to the developed Austen characters and seamlessly integrate and expand into leading roles the characters that were tertiary in the original work. I don’t always agree with where Aiken’s characters end up or how they get there and Mansfield Park Revisited is no exception. A little more depth to the Tom Bertram character was in order, in my opinion, but it is a small quibble in an otherwise entertaining book.