A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Ok… *deep breath*… Mansfield Park.
I know, I know, I’m sorry Queen Austen but I hate the ending of this book with all the passion that is lacking in Fanny and Edmund’s relationship. I so wish she could rise from the grave and do it over.
On one level the way that the ending is told is just deeply unsatisfying. If I go to see a Rom Com I don’t want one hour twenty-five minutes of breakups, pain and setbacks and five minutes at the end to cover the whole flirtation, relationship and happy ending ‘I only entreat everyone to believe that exactly at the time it was natural that it should be so, and not a week earlier, Edmund did cease to care about Miss Crawford and become as anxious to marry Fanny, as Fanny herself could desire.’ Of course, Austen’s narrative is far more complex than your bog-standard Rom Com but given that she largely chooses to explore issues through the medium of romantic relationships it feels unsatisfying that this relationship is not explored in more depth.
More distressing is the implication of this speedy ending. I don’t believe that Austen is invested in this relationship and it doesn’t seem like Edmund is either. Earlier Edmund claimed that the only woman he would ever truly love was Mary, then once he’s disapproved of her to the point of ending things he tells us that he will never love again and that the only woman he values is Fanny… for her friendship. Austen makes no real effort to convince us this isn’t the case; there is no romance, no to-ing and fro-ing, no sexy spark. This marriage is the sensible option and it’s written in a sensible way BUT THAT IS NOT OK.
And the real killer for me is the supposed ‘happy ever after’ itself. Edmund. Eurgh Edmund. Edmund. What a smug, moralising, boring, annoying, dull, smug, offensive, misogynistic … (I am not a fan of Edmund).
Janey Jannnnneyyyyy WHYYYYYYYYY? You had a hot, rich, funny (probably tameable) bad-boy ready to go in Henry Crawford. But who do we get? Edmund. Edmund who disapproved of the play, Edmund who is clearly still in love with Mary Crawford but couldn’t bring himself to sacrifice his high principles and marry a woman who actually dared to disagree with him? To have fun? To have a life beyond from her interactions with him? Henry Crawford represents fun, excitement, a life beyond fulfilling domestic duties in the house Fanny grew up in (with Edmund as her adoptive sibling…?!) and she’s too scared, too judgemental, too indoctrinated with a dour and unforgiving sense of morality (I’m also not a fan of Fanny) to take that. And that is sad.
You just know that after a couple of nights of reading moral texts together Fanny is going to have some serious regrets. And maybe that’s the point, but I don’t like it.
Honor: I’m 17, I’m in my last year at school doing A levels and yes, weirdly, I’m co-writing funny teen books with my mum and having so much fun with it. I used to do a bit of acting (mostly school but a tiny bit professional) and although Elektra, our main character, is nothing like me, I suppose that’s where the germ of the idea for Waiting for Callback came from.
Perdita: I used to be the least numerate tax barrister ever to practise at the English bar but now I’m writing at last and it’s the best ‘job’ in the world – not least because I’m writing funny teen books with my daughter.