What they are saying about
Parked at the Mansfields'
Peters Township Book Club
"We loved all the Pittsburgh references."
5 out of 5 Stars
Review by Mildred Tilley. Librarian and proud 'Janeite.'
Perhaps two key reasons 21st century readers continue to enjoy the works of early 19th century novelist, Jane Austen, are that Austen’s novels are intricately but believably plotted and the characters she imagined have similar psychological traits to individuals everyone recognizes in their friends today. In Parked at the Mansfields': A Modern Twist of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, Sandy Ward Bell models many of Austen’s classic plot devices as well as uses the essential nature of characters Austen devised in Mansfield Park to produce a contemporary chick-lit novel satirizing the lives of rich, idle 21st century suburbanites. Moreover, Bell adds a few additional characters and a major plot twist to ensure that readers who are already familiar with Mansfield Park, will have some surprises coming their way.
There are numerous parallels between Bell’s heroine, Franny Price, and Austen’s Fanny Price. Both are intelligent young women who are psychologically abused and demeaned by an unfeeling, selfish aunt. Each one is a “good girl” but stiff, shy and somewhat passive, making her an unlikely heroine. As in Austen’s novel, Bell has her Franny fall in love with a kind and caring “Eddie” who is quite similar the “Edmund” in Mansfield Park.
Bell also weaves a number of direct quotations from Mansfield Park into her contemporary story as well as includes small details (i.e. Aunt Mary’s coffee addiction instead of her mirror character’s addiction to laudanum) from Austen’s novel that are juicy literary allusions for hard-core Janeites.
Make no mistake, Parked at the Mansfields' diverges greatly from the sensibilities of Austen mainly because it is a fully contemporary novel with explicit dialogue about teenage sex, profanity, college rejection, drug and alcohol abuse as well as descriptions of over-the-top teenage partying that is rampant today. There are cougars prowling in this novel as well as conversations on Skype, not across a drawing room.
Yet, like Jane Austen, Sandy Ward Bell manages to write a novel that convincingly shows how a naïve, young girl, faced with many challenges not of her making, gains greater understanding of herself and the world around her to become a poised and happy woman, ready to face the challenges of adulthood. And oh, by the way, Sand Ward Bell does this with a tad more humor than Miss Austen did in 1813.