Mansfield Park Character Review: Thomas Bertram

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the novel Mansfield Park. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or watched any of the adaptations. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In a world in which primogeniture is king, being the eldest son is not what it seems to be. The upside is the potential inheritance of the estate, the title, the family fortune, etc. The downside is the pressure that comes with this status. In Mansfield Park, Thomas Bertram is the eldest son and heir of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram. With three younger siblings, he has certain responsibilities that his younger brother and sisters do not have. That does mean, however, that he is doing what he is supposed to be doing.

Instead of being the son his parents want him to be, Thomas initially prefers to drink, waste money, and schmooze with his friends. His inability to understand how his actions affect everyone around him would push anyone to the breaking point. He gets so far into debt that Sir Thomas is forced to sell the living or the benefice, putting his younger brother Edmund‘s future in doubt.

Taken by his father on a year-long business trip to Antigua, the hope is that this time away will set Thomas on the right path. Though it appears that he has changed, it is just that. His real transformation is represented by both a literal and figurative fall. Left at death’s door by his friends, Thomas returns home in a vegetative state. While he lies in a coma, Mary Crawford is already planning for her future as Lady Bertram with Edmund as the heir. It is a statement that does not go over well.

Like Marianne Dashwood, he only learns his lesson after hitting rock bottom. We are told by Austen that he is no longer the drunken wastrel that he was. He is the son that his parents need him to be.

To sum it up: Sometimes, the only way to understand where we have gone wrong is to go to depths that we never expected to go. Though the climb back up can be painful in multiple ways, it is the only way to understand where we went wrong. It is not easy, by any stretch of the imagination. But it is necessary if we want to grow beyond our past mistakes.

Which is why Thomas Bertram is a memorable character.

Kicking Ass in a Corset: Jane Austen’s 6 Principles for Living and Leading from the Inside Out Book Review

By nature, the corset is a garment meant to constrict the body of the person who is wearing it. It can also be a metaphor for the lack of opportunity and the second-class treatment that has been the norm for women for generations.

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Andrea Kayne‘s 2021 book, Kicking Ass in a Corset: Jane Austen’s 6 Principles for Living and Leading from the Inside Out, is half self-help book and half wisdom via Jane Austen. Using six of Austen’s beloved leading ladies (Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, Anne Elliot, Elinor Dashwood, Fanny Price, and Catherine Moreland) as an example, Kayne explains how readers and women readers, in particular, can learn from these beloved characters. Combining real-world advice with exercises and examples from the novels, she inspires us to go for what we want while learning from the women whose stories we adore.

I loved this book. Kayne brings both worlds together in a way that increases my love of Austen while lighting the proverbial fire under the behind. It makes me want to re-read all six books and be open to the lessons that can be gleaned from the genius that is Jane Austen.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen’s Novel to Film Book Review

Though it appears that a film or television appears as a finished product as if out of thin air, the reality is that it takes a lot of people working together to bring the magic that feels seamless.

The 1995 book, The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen’s Novel to Film, takes the reader into the process of making the 1995 adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility. Written by the movie’s screenwriter and star Emma Thompson (who played the lead role of Elinor Dashwood), the book contains the complete screenplay and Thompson’s diaries of the making of the film.

This book is so much fun to read. Seeing the screenplay in black and white was a treat. Thompson’s journal from the period is bawdy, funny, honest, and full of delicious minutiae of movie making that only adds to the joy of this beloved classic.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Celebrating Jane Austen on the 204 Anniversary of her Passing

Today is the 204 anniversary of the passing of Jane Austen. To say that she was extraordinary in her time and ours is and will always be an understatement. Though her physical remains are long gone, her name and her work will last forever.

Z”L.

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Nathaniel Hawthorne once said the following:

Easy reading is damn hard writing.” 

Reading Jane Austen is deliciously easy. Her books are full of characters that seem as real as you or I.

As any writer will tell you, writing is not as easy as it seems. The work and effort that is required feels nearly impossible to accomplish sometimes.

Jane came from an era in which women pursuing any career was frowned on. Her primary responsibility was that of a wife and mother. Initially publishing her books under the pseudonym of “A Lady”, public recognition of her as an author came later on.

One of the things I have learned as a writer is that sometimes you sometimes need to put your work away for a while. Recently, I have been going back to pieces that have been sitting on my hard drive. Delving back into those particular pieces (with the help of a handful of keen eyed fellow writers), I have been working on them with a level of excitement and energy I have not felt in a long time.

Her first three completed novels, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice were initially written when Austen was still a young woman. Like any budding author, she eagerly sent out her manuscripts to publishers, hoping for an eventual publication. The response was a decided no.

The next few years were an emotional roller coaster for Austen. After her father’s retirement and subsequent passing, Jane, her sister, and her mother moved frequently. It was only after finding a permanent home in Chawton House did she had the space and comfort that she needed to write again.

Rewriting the books of her youth and writing three new ones (Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion), she finally became the writer she had always wanted to be.

She didn’t know it, but she is one of the writers who paved the way for so many of us. As both the mother of the modern novel and a female novelist, she continues to delight readers and inspire fellow writers who want to follow in her giant footsteps.

Happy Birthday Jane, wherever you are.

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen

On December 16th, 1775, a remarkable woman was born. Her name was Jane Austen.

In her time (and to a certain degree, still in ours), a woman’s path in life was clear. She was to receive an education that was considered to be appropriate for a woman. Upon reaching adulthood, she would marry, bear children (i.e. sons) and live the rest of her life in the quiet dignity that was expected for a woman.

Jane could have married. His name was Harris Bigg-Wither. He was the younger brother of her friends. By the accounts of the day and family members, he was not the most attractive of men. But he had one thing going for him: he was the heir of a wealthy and respected family. At that time, those facts were all that was needed to determine if someone was a good match.

He proposed when Jane and Cassandra were visitors to the Bigg-Wither home. On paper, they were a good match. She was in her late 20’s, nearly impoverished and without a marriage proposal in sight. Upon his father’s death, Harris would inherit a stately home and a comfortable fortune. He proposed in the evening. Jane said yes, but something was not right. In the morning, she took back her yes and changed the course of her life forever.

As a single and childless woman of a certain age, I look to Austen as a role model. She could have easily folded into the preordained path that was expected for a woman. But she didn’t. She chose her own path and in doing so, pave the way for future generations of women to do the same.

Wherever you are Jane, Happy Birthday.

Jane Austen: Ordinary in Her Time and Extraordinary in Our Time

Most of us are ordinary in our day to day lives. We go about our business until the day when we shuffle off this mortal coil.

During her lifetime, Jane Austen was an ordinary woman. But in our lifetimes, she is considered to be extraordinary. She is of the creators of the modern novel, a proto-feminist, a woman who was not afraid to speak her mind and an all around bad-ass.

Tomorrow is the 202th anniversary of her passing. She died at the young age of 41, with only four published books to her name and a modest success as a writer. Every time I read one of her books, I find myself asking what if she had lived a little longer or even into old age? What books and characters might she have introduced to the world?

Wherever she is, I hope that she is looking down on us and smiling, knowing that her name will live on for eternity.

Rational Creatures Book Review

When it comes to creating well written fanfiction, a good writer knows how to balance their narrative and their voice with the narrative and voice of the original work.

Christina Boyd’s new Jane Austen inspired anthology, Rational Creatures, was published back in October. Containing 16 new stories from well-respected JAFF (Jane Austen Fanfiction) writers, the focus of the stories of Austen’s female characters. The question that each story asks is if the heroines are the standard romantic heroines or strong, capable women who are able stand on their two feet in spite of the era that they live in?

I’ve been a fan of Ms. Boyd for the last few years, I enjoyed her previous anthologies, The Darcy Monologues and Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues. This book is well written and an easy read. I would caution, however, that this book is not for the newbie Jane Austen fan. It requires a level of knowledge that comes with multiple readings of Austen’s work and a deep knowledge of the fictional worlds that she created.

I recommend it.

Happy Birthday Jane

On this day, in 1775, a young lady entered this world. The circumstances and the family she was born into did not give any hint as to what she would become as an adult. Her father was a man of the cloth, her mother had successfully brought into the world six previous children and would bring one more into the world after her. In infancy, she was known as Jenny.

Today, we know her as Jane Austen, a literary giant that many have imitated, but few have duplicated. Her six completed novels, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion, are beloved the world over.

On the surface, Austen wrote love stories. But a deeper dive reveals that she was an astute observer of her world. Weaving her observations into her six completed novels, her books were much more than the standard boy meets girl, boy gets girl narrative. She wrote about politics, she was a proto-feminist and she mocked/revealed the inconsistencies that were part of the world she knew.

Most of all, she inspired and continues to inspire female writers not just to write, but to question the inconsistencies of their own worlds.

Wherever you are, dearest Jane, Happy Birthday.

Holidays with Jane: Summer of Love Book Review

One of my favorite aspects when it comes to Jane Austen’s novels is that her stories still ring true to readers in the early 21st century as  much as they did in early 19th century. This has led to the explosion of Jane Austen fanfiction, for better or for worse.

In 2016, Holidays with Jane: Summer of Love, was published. Each of her six completed novels is condensed into modern short stories that are set in and around summertime and summer vacation. I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because I felt like the writers achieved the delicate balance of being true to Jane’s novels while letting the modern version of the characters shine.

I recommend it.

 

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