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One From the Archive: ‘Mansfield Revisited’ by Joan Aiken ***

In Mansfield Revisited, a novel which was first published in 1984, prolific author Joan Aiken has presented a sequel to Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.  Aiken writes in her introduction that she decided to write this book – one of the six sequels which she penned for each of Austen’s novels – out of ‘love and admiration’.  She goes on to say that she found herself ‘filled with an overmastering wish to find out what happened’ to the characters whom she had come to love.

‘Mansfield Revisited’ by Joan Aiken (Jonathan Cape)

The blurb of the novel is intriguing: “After the sad demise of Sir Thomas, Edmund Bertram and his new wife Fanny must sail to the West Indies to oversee the family’s affairs.  Back at Mansfield Park, Fanny’s younger sister Susan is left at the helm…  Yet the news of Henry and Mary Crawford’s return to Mansfield heralds the greatest storm yet”.

Aiken describes the way in which she has tried to work out the story of the sequel ‘by a mixture of imagination and common sense’.  Fanny and Edmund are now the parents of a ‘remarkably pretty little girl’, Mary, and a baby boy named William.  For some reason which appears to be rather inexplicable to the modern reader, baby William is taken along to the West Indies, but three-year-old Mary is left at home.

Throughout, it feels as though Aiken has adopted Austen’s tone and narrative style well.  Her dialogue wonderfully echoes that which can be found within the original novel.  The period setting has been well evoked.  The definite strength of the book as far as I am concerned is the continuation of Austen’s voice.  If it were read back to back with the original, I imagine that one book would seamlessly blend into the other, creating a coherent whole of sorts.

This does have a drawback, however.  It feels as though, by echoing Austen’s style so well, Aiken has put little of her own individual stamp onto the book.  Whilst it is clear that she is a great mimic, we do not get any real sense of her own writing.

Mansfield Revisited, as any reader of Austen’s novels would come to expect, is a very familial story.  The entirety is thicker in terms of dialogue and character development than in its plot.  The story moves on well and is believable throughout.  The novel is delightfully of the period in question, and is certain to hold appeal for all of those who so enjoyed Austen’s original.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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0

‘Mansfield Revisited’ by Joan Aiken ***

In Mansfield Revisited, a novel which was first published in 1984, prolific author Joan Aiken has presented a sequel to Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.  Aiken writes in her introduction that she decided to write this book – one of the six sequels which she penned for each of Austen’s novels – out of ‘love and admiration’.  She goes on to say that she found herself ‘filled with an overmastering wish to find out what happened’ to the characters whom she had come to love.

‘Mansfield Revisited’ by Joan Aiken (Jonathan Cape)

The blurb of the novel is intriguing: “After the sad demise of Sir Thomas, Edmund Bertram and his new wife Fanny must sail to the West Indies to oversee the family’s affairs.  Back at Mansfield Park, Fanny’s younger sister Susan is left at the helm…  Yet the news of Henry and Mary Crawford’s return to Mansfield heralds the greatest storm yet”.

Aiken describes the way in which she has tried to work out the story of the sequel ‘by a mixture of imagination and common sense’.  Fanny and Edmund are now the parents of a ‘remarkably pretty little girl’, Mary, and a baby boy named William.  For some reason which appears to be rather inexplicable to the modern reader, baby William is taken along to the West Indies, but three-year-old Mary is left at home.

Throughout, it feels as though Aiken has adopted Austen’s tone and narrative style well.  Her dialogue wonderfully echoes that which can be found within the original novel.  The period setting has been well evoked.  The definite strength of the book as far as I am concerned is the continuation of Austen’s voice.  If it were read back to back with the original, I imagine that one book would seamlessly blend into the other, creating a coherent whole of sorts.

This does have a drawback, however.  It feels as though, by echoing Austen’s style so well, Aiken has put little of her own individual stamp onto the book.  Whilst it is clear that she is a great mimic, we do not get any real sense of her own writing.

Mansfield Revisited, as any reader of Austen’s novels would come to expect, is a very familial story.  The entirety is thicker in terms of dialogue and character development than in its plot.  The story moves on well and is believable throughout.  The novel is delightfully of the period in question, and is certain to hold appeal for all of those who so enjoyed Austen’s original.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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Flash Reviews (11th October 2013)

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken ***
I still adore reading children’s books, and had had The Wolves of Willoughby Chase written onto my wishlist for quite some time before I purchased it.  I found within its pages elements and echoes which reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, Enid Blyton and, oddly, Daphne du Maurier, which was a most interesting amalgamation.  The storyline was intriguing, and I liked the way in which Aiken had woven in a Gothic darkness.  There was also an overriding sense of melancholy, which made itself known almost at the outset.  Whilst I very much enjoyed the imagined historical setting, I wasn’t quite expecting the storyline which Aiken presented me with in this book.  I enjoyed it on the whole, but the rather insipid characters who peopled its pages at times have ensured that it does not feature amongst my favourite children’s stories, by any means.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky *****
I read this marvellous book at least once every year (yes, I have been known to read it twice in just a few months), and have lost count of the number of times I have immersed myself in its pages.  I cannot express my adoration of it enough.  It is a stunning, perfect, lovely book, which will leave you with fond memories and the most wonderful narrator in the guise of adorable Charlie.

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman ****
I have been most intrigued by the title of this novel ever since I first spotted it in Waterstones, and it was from a series of great reviews and a recommendation that I decided to purchase it on a whim.  When God Was a Rabbit tells the story of Eleanor Maud (darling name!) and her brother Joe as they meander from children to adults.  The story was unexpected at times, and it really pulled me in.  The style of it, told in a series of vignettes, worked marvellously.  It gave me the feeling that what was being written about were fragmented memories, coherent only to the narrator.  For a novel told in retrospect, this was a marvellous touch.  I really liked Elly’s narrative voice throughout, and her growing up within its pages was done believably. The balance of humour and sadness was perfect, and the characters were all built up wonderfully.  I loved learning little bits and pieces about them as the book went on.  Jenny Penny and Arthur were absolute sweethearts, and I very much enjoyed the eccentricity which Winman wove into them.  This novel comes highly recommended, and if you are after an absorbing and surprising read, look no further.

A Tree With a Bird In It by Margaret Widdemer **
I downloaded this onto my Kindle along with several other Widdemer books.  I liked the idea of the collection, in which a singular view of a tree in Widdemer’s garden inspired each poet.  The entirety of the book is rather odd and there were many poems which I didn’t much enjoy, but there were some sweet additions throughout.  My favourites were ‘The Bird Misunderstood’ by Robert Frost, ‘Frost and Sandburg Tonight’ by Edith M. Thomas, ‘At Autumn’ by Sara Teasdale, ‘The Sighing Tree’ by Margaret Widdemer, ‘Ballade of Spring Chickens’ by Richard Le Gallienne, and ‘Tea o’ Herbs’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay.