Buy on Amazon
Fanny Price, niece to Sir Thomas Bertram of Mansfield Park, is an intelligent but timid girl from a poor family, who is grateful for the advantages of education and breeding conferred upon her as result of growing up with her wealthier cousins.
But the cruelty of her Aunt Norris, together with a broken heart, compel Fanny to run away from Mansfield Park and find employment as a governess.
Far away from everything she ever knew and the one man she loves, will Fanny grow in fortitude and independence? Will a new suitor help her to forget? Or will a reckless decision threaten to destroy her own life and the lives of those she holds most dear?
This variation of Jane Austen’s novel includes all the familiar characters from Mansfield Park, as well as some new acquaintances. Note to readers: There are some mature scenes and situations not suitable for all readers.
Every time I read something based on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, I feel like the story earns a larger and more deeply entrenched place in my heart. Reading Lona Manning’s debut JAFF novel, A Contrary Wind, which is a variation based on Mansfield Park, gave me this exact experience as well and made me quite happy to spend this time with a variation based on Austen’s fourth published novel. Ms. Manning’s variation is aptly named, A Contrary Wind, because Sir Bertram’s return to England is delayed from the events in canon, allowing Ms, Manning to spin her story in a whole new direction
Modern day readers will be able to empathize with the actions of Fanny Price in this variation, who takes charge of her own life and sets into motion a series of events that will eventually change the outcome of her life and the lives of many other key characters. Beginning at Chapter XV of Mansfield Park, Fanny decides to follow in the footsteps of Miss Lee, her former governess at Mansfield Park, when she seeks employment outside of her home. Through Fanny’s misleading actions and Mary Crawford’s cunning behaviors, Fanny’s relatives are misled about Fanny’s intentions and whereabouts, thus leaving Mary in a position to manipulate Edmund Bertram for her own selfish desires. Will Edmund allow himself to fall for Mary’s charms while Fanny is no longer present in his daily life?
“You know her best, of course, Mr. Bertram. I think her a dear, queer, little thing, in some respects like a child of eight, in others like an old woman of eighty, but very unlike the young ladies of eighteen that one ordinarily encounters! Recall her raptures at the trees of Sotherton, her quaint way of talking: ‘to look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment’!” She began to laugh, then checked herself.
“While I can say nothing in defense of her mode of leaving your household, it may be for the best – yes decidedly it is for the best – for her to spend some time among her own people, of her own class, wouldn’t you agree? As direct as your dear aunt can be, she spoke the truth – Miss Price is not one of you, not by birth, or fortune, and while the education and manners she has acquired under your roof may help her attain a station in life above her expectations, it would be cruel to allow her to think that she could win the affection of any gentleman of consequence.”
“Are you speaking of matrimony? Fanny married? In my imagination I always pictured her residing here with my family. But now that you broach the topic, I must say that the man who sees Fanny’s worth, and takes her for his wife, will have chosen wisely.”
Miss Crawford stumbled a little here, and Mr. Bertram placed his arm around her waist, briefly, while she steadied herself. She looked up at him, slowly, and his breath caught in his throat.
“Do not imagine such a thing – yet, Mr. Bertram. She is still very young, and younger still in knowledge of the world. I wish her a safe and speedy journey to Portsmouth! But I cannot judge her too harshly for leaving you as she has done, as selfish and thoughtless as it was. Her yearning to see her own family is very natural. Having lost my own parents at an early age, I can imagine no greater felicity than being with those I love, knowing that I belong to them and they belong to me!” This last was uttered in such low, thrilling tones that Edmund might have spoken there and then, had he not recalled that the great dispute between them – his determination to become a clergyman – had not been resolved.
So while Mary and Edmund continue to become better acquainted and work through the issues surrounding Edmund’s decision to be ordained, Fanny becomes a valued member of the Smallridge household, where she is in charge of caring for their small children. Over time, she becomes quite fond of the young people in her care, the family who have hired her, and the new friends she has acquired living away from Mansfield Park. One of these friends, a young man named William Gibson, shows Fanny the respect she has longed to receive in her life, which opens her mind up to new possibilities for herself and for the world around her. But can Fanny’s heart ever be able to love anyone except Edmund?
Once her relatives and friends realize that she has left them behind, a search begins to return Fanny Price to Mansfield Park, but is Mansfield Park still Fanny’s home? Fanny explores this question, along with her plans for the future, as she faces a variety of struggles living away from the Bertrams. This experience matures Fanny in unexpected ways and I believe readers will enjoy exploring this side of Fanny’s character, while also watching how the secrets and sly manipulations employed by Mary Crawford wind up taking Mary’s and Edmund’s lives in a whole new direction too.
I love exploring alternate possibilities for the main characters of Mansfield Park and this book allowed me to delve into some of the guilty pleasures that I had not previously been privy to as a reader. I somewhat expected the story to turn out one way and I was glad that it took me in quite a new direction. What a fun read indeed!
You may be wondering if Henry Crawford has a role in this story. Henry certainly has his part to play not only in the lives of the Bertram sisters but also as the man who eagerly searches for Fanny. I was all anticipation reading to see if this was a story where Fanny and Henry would possibly have their own happy ending. After all, isn’t Henry Crawford a man so very close to personal redemption?
Lona Manning has a very engaging writing style, while her writing also captures the essence of Austen’s style and the time period in which she wrote her stories. She artfully wove text from canon into her own prose in ways that added significant depth to her own storylines, while at the same time these inclusions of canon didn’t bog down her story in any way. Her creative storylines were bold enough to make this story a real page-turner, especially about a quarter of the way into her story, and yet, she still maintains the characterizations and some of the important themes that Austen explored in Mansfield Park, such as the slave trade in the West Indies, the roles of the Church of England in Georgian society, and the exploration of how our characters ultimately shape our destinies.
Having caught a bit of the Mansfield Park bug myself, I hope more readers will take the time to enjoy this story and give Austen’s own book another go as well. Published in 1814, right after the publication of Pride and Prejudice, I can’t help thinking there are some very valuable themes to explore in Mansfield Park. Lona Manning’s variation offers us some new and intriguing ways to reimagine Mansfield Park. My fingers are crossed that Ms. Manning has a sequel to this book in the works because I’d love to spend more time with these characters and see where she takes this story further down the road.
Meet Lona Manning
I was born in South Korea where my parents were teaching missionaries shortly after the Korean War. I grew up in Vancouver, Canada. My husband Ross and I raised two sons. Over the years, I’ve been a home care aide, legal secretary, political speech writer, office manager, and vocational instructor. Mainly I worked in non-profit administration until suddenly deciding (in my late 50’s) to get an ESL teaching certificate. My husband and I now divide our time between China (where I teach) and the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.
I have authored several lengthy non-fiction pieces about notable American crimes, such as: the murder of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the Lindbergh kidnapping, the 1920 Wall Street bombing, the satanic ritual moral panic of the 90’s, and the Rubin Hurricane Carter case. My crime articles can be found online at www.crimemagazine.com. Last spring, after a long silence, my Muse showed up and started writing “A Contrary Wind” in my head.
It’s Giveaway Time
I have a giveaway for one eBook of A Contrary Wind for one lucky Just Jane 1813 reader. To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment on this post no later than midnight, ET on August 8th. The winner will be announced on this blog on August 9, 2017.
I’d like to thank Lona Manning for writing such an enjoyable variation that I believe JAFF readers will enjoy reading, even if Mansfield Park isn’t one of your favorite Austen stories.
Visit Amazon to add this to your bookshelf.
Visit Goodreads to see what your friends are saying about this book.