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Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment    by Joan Aiken order for
Mansfield Park Revisited
by Joan Aiken
Order:  USA  Can
Sourcebooks, 2008 (2008)
Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment, Joan Aiken (19242004) gives us an imagined sequel to Mansfield Park, one that takes some of its characters' lives in unexpected directions while introducing new players to the scene.

As the story opens, Austen's heroine Fanny Brice is married to her cousin Edmund Bertram and Sir Thomas Bertram has died unexpectedly. This requires a son to settle business matters at the family's Antigua plantation and it's decided that Edmund should go, along with Fanny and their son William. In his absence he arranges for an old friend, Frank Wadham, to take over his parish responsibilities.

Fanny's younger sister Susan is indispensable in her role as Lady Bertram's companion at Mansfield Park, and will also care for her niece Mary while Fanny and Edmund are gone. Julia Bertram, now the Honourable Mrs Yates (and unfortunately a close neighbor) clumsily interferes at Mansfield Park at every opportunity - and in so doing injects reams of humor into the story.

Mr. Wadham arrives along with his lively sister, Mrs. Osborne (the widow of an admiral), who brings news of the disgraced Maria Bertram. And Susan's path soon crosses that of Henry and Mary Crawford, the charismatic villains of the original piece. Mary is extremely ill and moves into the neighborhood (her physician has prescribed country air), hoping to reconnect with Fanny and Edmund.

A friendship develops between Susan and Mary (who shares some of the hard won wisdom she has earned from her past mistakes), while an attraction grows between Henry and Susan - where will it lead? You will need to read the novel to find out but it offers redemption for the Crawfords, while other players get their just desserts.

Aiken is not Austen but she's an able writer, whose novels I've long enjoyed. She offers here an opportunity for Austen fans to spend more time with the engaging characters introduced in Mansfield Park - and to see some in a new light.

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