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Though "Mansfield Park" isn't my favorite of Jane Austen's books, I didn't know how much I was missing until I got the version narrated by Frances Barber (Superb!). It was enough to get me to try other versions... because 1) I like to hear an old story, refreshed by the new, and 2) I obviously don't know when to stop (Wanda McCaddon--too old; Johanna Ward--too brittle--AND--I shoulda stopped there).
Anna Bentinck does fine with the prose, but when it slips into dialogue, she's dreadful. She does Fanny decently enough, and that's about it. The men have low, guttural tones, and each word they speak is slow, soporific, would put you to sleep if they weren't so laughable. Lady Bertram speaks soooo sloooowly also, it defies endurance. Edmund is no better, and we're supposed to like him.
The reason "Mansfield Park" isn't at the top of my list is because Fanny can be so twittery and fearful and, whereas the Frances Barber version tempers that with steady tones, Bentinck does nothing here to mitigate it. We have the fearful girl, a fish out of water and constantly reminded that she's a second-class citizen. We have her love of her cousin, the only one who's kind to her, but he's a crotchety stick-in-the-mud. We have plays put on by shallow people who Bentinck goes over the top with.
I really missed Fanny's steadiness of temper, her pureness of heart. I missed the humor when love finds her (and she really, really wishes it hadn't). I missed the clarity of purpose that gets lost in such wretched dialogue.
Do yourself a favor: try the Frances Barber version before you spend a credit, the money, your TIME on this. If you don't, you'll miss out on what a true wonder Fanny Price can be.
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