REVIEW: Mansfield Park and Mummies by Vera Nazarian (and win a copy)


Mansfield Park and Mummies Review by Allison T.

The latest in the series of “mash-ups,” Mansfield Park and Mummies, weighs in at a hefty 555 pages which, as I discuss below, is quite a lot for a one-trick pony. However, while Mansfield Park—usually low down on readers’ lists of favorite Austen novels—seems an unlikely choice for a mash-up, I found that it worked somewhat less artificially than its predecessors. I mean, given the Egyptological excavations that were actually occurring at the time, it is not wholly inconceivable that Lady Bertram should start buying up sarcophagi and urns and the living undead.

The attractive cover promised well as did the announcement that the work includes “scholarly footnotes and appendices”—the latter of which made this Scholar laugh until tea came out of her nose. (Warning: don’t drink and read at the same time.)

As to the story: 3,000 years ago an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh died and was embalmed, mummified and eventually transported to Mansfield Park as part of Lady Bertram’s obsession with all things Egyptian. Of course he comes to life and of course he seeks his bride.

The Bertram family suffers under a Curse, caused by the Mummy. Aunt Norris howls at the moon. Mr. Rushworth forages for small animals in the shrubbery. Enervated by the Mummy’s “sips” of their life-force, the servants stagger around uselessly. And the Crawfords? Another of the pesky band of Undead that plague Mansfield Park. Mary is a….vampire! She has no heart. That’s why she is uncomfortable in the chapel at Sotherton….that’s why she doesn’t like the clergy….and, yes, that’s why the necklace she gives Fanny doesn’t fit through the ring of the cross. Brilliant! I really liked this touch.

Fanny alone is unaffected by these bizarre creatures and events. As mummies lurch across the countryside it is she who must save Mansfield Park and its inhabitants. It is she who must learn how to Stifle the Life Force of the Living Undead. (Warning: don’t read and eat at the same time either. Kinda gross.)

I’ll admit that I found MP&M amusing, within its genre. And I was impressed with Vera Nazarian’s writing—I’d like to read more of her work, unassisted by Jane Austen. However, I got very tired very fast of the “scholarly footnotes,” which basically consist of a “tee-hee” statement every time Austen uses the word “intercourse.” As in “sisterly intercourse,” etc. Sorry, not even funny once to this reader.

However, here’s the thing—I’m tired of these mash-ups. They are a one-joke gig and the gig’s over.

I had actually never heard the term “mash-up” until the summer of 2009 when the phrase began to be used in conjunction with P&P&Z. Apparently the word mash-up was first used in web development for a web page or application that, according to Wikipedia, combined “data or functionality from two or more external sources to create a new service.” The phrase is also used in music, “usually by overlaying the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the music track of another.”

So, OK, P&P&Z and S&S&SM and MP&M are all mash-ups. One reads “austenaustenaustenMUMMYaustenausPUTRIFYINGGOREtenaustenDEATHFORCE,” etc. (And, in fact, that’s exactly how I read MP&M: I let my eye skim down the familiar passages until I encountered a term like ROTTING FLESH and then read more carefully.)

But somehow—no matter how amusing any particular paragraph can be—this doesn’t qualify as seamless: nay, it is as obviously stitched-together as the face of Dr. Frankenstein’s creature.

Yes, the first whiff of rotting flesh coming from the mash-up of zombies and P&P was risible—the image of the pretty girls with their heaving bosoms and handsome men in really tight trousers battling with the undead is funny.

And, yes, the thought of terrorizing the stereotype of a Janeite—with our steel-rimmed spectacles, our cats and knitting, our lavender and old lace—with ninjas and mummies and sea-serpents is doubtless gratifying to the mind that apparently got locked in the bathroom at the age of six and never emerged.

So, yes, the idea was funny once. But once is enough. Once one gets over the shock value and the giggle of an Austen mash-up, they get a little….stale. They are perhaps better suited to a comic book or a three-minute YouTube video than to a 555-page tome.

And here’s my last observation, as I pen these words on the first day of 2010—I don’t think it is a coincidence that all three Austen mash-ups appeared in late 2009. Sure, there was some competitive publishing positioning going on. But I suggest that there was something more at work as well.

P&P&Z features an England in which a strange plague of Unmentionable creatures terrorizes the countryside.

S&S&SM features an England in which a dreadful Alteration has turned the creatures of the sea against those of the land, terrorizing the countryside. Mr Dashwood believes that the Alteration was caused by the waters of a noxious stream polluting the globe; Edward Ferrars attributes it to the time of the Tudors, when Henry VIII turned his back on the Holy Church and God smote the English for this impiety by turning the creatures of the sea against them.

MP&M features an England in which Edmund’s family suffers under a Curse: the Necklace of the Eye of Horus that Lady Bertram wears constantly around her neck causes evil creatures to terrorize the countryside.

Spot the theme? Plagues, curses and dreadful alterations terrorizing the inhabitants of a previously placid environment?

All three mash-ups appeared in the last few months of the final year of a decade horribilus—a decade that saw terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, the melt-down of financial markets around the world, depressed economies, high unemployment rates, and corruption and scandals in high places. The hype around Y2K seems like an eon ago—we have real worries now about our personal and financial safety, about global warming, chemicals in the water supply….about all the numerous threats emanating from sinister forces beyond our control that terrorize our formerly placid lives.

I believe that one reason why these mash-ups appeared right now at the end of this hideous decade is that they express a longing to have Elizabeth, Elinor and Fanny show us how to fight the monsters in our own back yards. After all, if gentle little Fanny, still diffident about riding her old grey pony, can shove common household implements into the pie-holes of rotting mummies, thereby causing them to turn to dust and blow away, perhaps we can triumph over the depressed state of our finances, our jobs (or lack thereof) and our dreary lives.

We’ve started a new year and a new decade. Let’s put Austen mash-ups behind us and boldly forge ahead.

Let’s even, for a change, read Jane Austen’s works, as written all by herself and without any other assistance.

AustenBlog is giving away a copy of Mansfield Park and Mummies, courtesy of Norilana Books. Respond in the comments and let us know if you would like to be included in the giveaway (you can still comment if you would rather not). All responses by Sunday, January 10, 2010, at 8 p.m. ET will be entered.

37 thoughts on “REVIEW: Mansfield Park and Mummies by Vera Nazarian (and win a copy)

  1. Patty

    Mansfield Park is my least favourite Austen, maybe the mummies will make it more interesting (aha), so, yes, include me in the giveaway.


  2. LOL Allison!

    And, yes, the thought of terrorizing the stereotype of a Janeite—with our steel-rimmed spectacles, our cats and knitting, our lavender and old lace—with ninjas and mummies and sea-serpents is doubtless gratifying to the mind that apparently got locked in the bathroom at the age of six and never emerged.

    You forgot to warn us againt spouting tea through the nose while reading YOUR review!

    Thanks for the hearty laugh, and an excellent argument why writers and publishers need to move past this fad. Everyone wants to leave the decade of destruction and move into enlightment. Yes, reading Austen as she intended would be a welcome relief indeed.

    Cheers, LA


  3. Mansfield Park is my second favorite Austen novel. Even though I don’t like these new “adaptations” of the Austen novels I would like to check this one out, so include me to the contest. 🙂


  4. I really admire your review. It was very insightful about this book and about the fad of these “mash-ups” in general. I haven’t read any of these books yet so I can’t really judge, but to me it sounds like a good concept that was unfortunately poorly executed.

    Thanks for the insightful review!



  5. Annmarie Thomas

    I’m looking to purchase two tickets to the Jane Austen Evening to be held 1/23/10. I thought I signed up, but apparently did not. Do you know any one who is interested in selling two tickets? I would be most grateful! I can be reached at Ann


  6. Lynne

    I happen to enjoy Mansfield Park (without the mummies) at great deal. Yes, Fanny can be frustrating, but I marvel at Mary’s character as she makes some of the crudest jokes that one might even hear today. Who could argue that Jane Austen wasn’t informed of all types of society even as the daughter of a clergyman?

    I also happen to find all the talk about landscaping fascinating because 1) it shows a theme that reoccurs throughout all Austen’s novels: someone who has character will take good care of his/her estate and 2) it’s another way that the Neo-Classical vs the Romantic plays itself out, like S&S just in greenery rather than people’s behavior.


  7. Vanessa

    I would love to be included in the contest. I read, or tried to at least, P&P&Z and was not engrossed enough to want to finish the entire thing. I skimmed through S&S&SM, but it looked horrid and thankfully I did not waste money to find that out later. From your semi-favorable review, I would like to check out MP&M…because who can resist mummies?


  8. Please enter me in the giveaway. I am a huge fan of Mansfield Park and am not sure I could bear to pay for this book, though I kind of feel the need to read it if I intend to comment on it intelligently. I am still trying to make myself read Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters with very little luck. If this one is at least better written, perhaps I’ll have more success getting through it. Thanks for the review.


  9. Jenn

    I would like to be added to the giveaway. Might be the only way I’d end up with a copy of this book. I am curious as to how the sometimes hard to love Fanny Price becomes a monster fighting heroine.


  10. >After all, if gentle little Fanny, still diffident about riding her old grey pony, can shove common household implements into the pie-holes of rotting mummies, thereby causing them to turn to dust and blow away, perhaps we can triumph over the depressed state of our finances, our jobs (or lack thereof) and our dreary lives.

    LOL and lovely thought.

    Please add me to the giveaway–once I’ve read it, I’ll donate it to my JASNA group’s book exchange fund-raiser.


  11. S

    I would like to be included in the giveaway, in part to test a scientific (or maybe not so scientific) theory about luck, but mostly because I loathe the recent vampire trend and its depiction of vampires as desirable, and therefore love the idea that Mary Crawford, who is ultimately deemed undesirable, is the one who is the vampire. And because curiosity makes me want to read the book, but I would rather do it without incurring the expense of buying it.


  12. Katie

    I want to be included in the give-away. As the 13th comment leaver, I am guessing I haven’t a shot (or do I??), but I must put in that this book is actually, frighteningly, relevant to my dissertation.


  13. Mansfield Park was my third favorite, so no, it didn’t beat P&P and NA, but I still loved it. . . and I haven’t tried the zombies and sea monsters, but I love ancient Egypt, so I wouldn’t mind trying it 🙂



  14. April

    Since I was given both P&P&Z and S&S&SM for Christmas, I would love to own the complete set. Please include me in the giveaway!


  15. Oh, but they’re not over – Emma and Werewolves is still coming. I’m curious about how other publishers are getting in on the action – and adding other authors, such as Dickens in I am Scrooge.


  16. Louisa S

    Happy to see a review of MP+M up! I got it for Christmas, and am halfway through(I got lots of other books, too), though so far my opinions vary somewhat from the reviewer’s. I’ve been enjoying the Austen/monster mash-up. I think it has brought people to like Jane who would never have considered her before. For example, my boyfriend would never read any austen until P+P+Z, and since then he has decided that maybe she’s not so bad ;). And for myself personally, being both a janeite and a fan of monsters of all sorts, I really enjoy the mash-up books, despite their less-than-seamless construction.
    Specific to MP+M, I think this is the best done of any of these books so far. I know nothing of the reasons the author had for writing the novel, but it feels like she is familiar with the story and the characters.

    That said, I agree, the appendices are brilliant :). Seriously.


  17. di12381

    I dont seem to get why some dont like MP as they do with other books, but to each their own. I would love to win a copy.


  18. Sylvia

    Please include me in this giveaway. Based on this review, I think it’s not that bad as the other 2 mash-ups.
    Thank you.


  19. This is a great, detailed review. Even if I don’t win a copy of the book, I’ll definitely seek it out because I enjoyed P&P&Z and S&S&SM. I’d love to read about Fanny dealing with mummies. 🙂


  20. Your last point in the review about why the monster mash-ups were so popular was interesting. I had never thought of it that way before. And, as usual, your knack for words is always a pleasure to read. (I still cherish one phrase where you called Edward Cullen a creature from the Lisa Frank universe. Teehee.)
    Thank you for your review.
    And please include me in the giveaway. 🙂


  21. Christina

    I hadn’t heard of this particular mashup or the one with Emma. What’s next, Persuasion and Poltergeists? (I hope not!). Your review makes this book sound imperfect but still interesting. I would like to be included in the giveaway.


  22. I couldn’t finish P&P&Z. It was like a bad SNL skit that was mildly funny for the first 30 seconds, but then went on and on. It wasn’t “Austen spiced up”– it was Austen made boring. I didn’t think anything related to Jane could be boring, but that book did its best. The good bits were Jane’s text copied-and-pasted.

    I don’t like zombies in any case (for me, they just don’t have as exciting a mythos as mummies or vampires, with their history). I feel that I might like sea monsters, werewolves, or mummies better, but I am loath to spend any more money on these things. I’d love to be entered in the give-away.

    I actually love Fanny Price, so it would be interesting to see her fighting ancient mummies. (It makes me imagine her meeting Amelia Peabody– wonder how that would go?) I think that Fanny has a wonderful, quiet strength. It’s easy for the outgoing, confident Elizabeth Bennet to turn down Mr. Collins. Fanny is shy and has always felt indebted to the Bertrams. Instead of Mr. Bennet supporting her, she has Uncle Bertram insisting that if she doesn’t accept Henry, she is an ingrate. And Henry is no Mr. Collins– he’s smart and sexy. But Fanny still knows her mind and refuses him. I really admire her for that.


  23. Gabriela

    Mansfield Park is the novel that made me read the others, and reread Emma, which the first one I read. I don’t think I’d pay money for a mashup, but include me in the giveaway please, since it’s interesting enough to make me curious.


  24. Heather J

    I’d read this book because I’m one of the few who actually likes Fanny (at least it feels that way), so please include me in the giveaway. Thank you!!


  25. Tzippy

    I can’t wait too read it and see what the author has done with the plot. I wonder how in the name of Tutankhamun Edmund is going to fight mummies while at the same time pine for Marry Crawford? Please include me in the giveaway. Thanks!!


  26. I’d like to be included in the giveaway– MP is my second favorite Austen and I’m a little curious to see how mummies fit in! Glad to hear it’s apparently done well. I don’t really mind the mashups that much.


  27. Melly S.

    I was drawn to this book by the cover as well. I find the covers on the other mash-up novels to be too gruesome!

    Please include me in the drawing.


  28. Kira

    “Lady Bertram’s obsession with all things Egyptian”. Really??? Lady Bertram? I can sort of imagine Fanny as a mummy fighter or Mary as a Vampire, but Lady Bertram being obsessed with anything? Tom, I could see as being interested in collecting all thing Egyptian. I would really like to know how anyone can write Lady Bertram like that without completely missing all the fun of Lady Bertram, but I refuse to read the mash-ups, so I guess I’ll never know…


  29. Jenny

    I enjoyed reading Mansfield Park and can not imagine that the peaceful home would be a place for mummies. This mash-up book doesn’t really need to be connected with Mansfield Park because the author can pick out other names for her/his characters. From you fun review, names are the only connection I can see.


  30. Tony

    Mansfield Park was the first Jane Austen novel I ever read. I was doing a course towards my BA degree entitled the 18th century novel. That was many, many years ago now. It got me hooked on Jane. I was born in Southampton and now live in Wimbledon, so my whole life has been in Jane country. The places mentioned in Jane’s letters are a mere drive or even walk from where I live.

    On my new BLOG, London Calling, I have included many photographs of places and sites mentioned in Jane’s letters and some in her novels.

    Please free to have a look.

    All the best,
    Tony Grant ( An unlikely Janeite.)


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