First, I would like to thank the author, Kate Watson, for sending this book to me! Opening this up in the mail was so exciting, and made my day so much better!! Seeking Mansfield has been such a pleasure to read, and I couldn’t wait to get a review of it up on here to share!
Seeking Mansfield is a retelling/modernization of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. In this version we are introduced to Finley Price as she shyly sets her sights on applying to her local theaters youth program. All seems to be normal in her life except for her living situation, and her difficult past. Enter the Crawfords, and everything that she had maintained as normal is now either in jeopardy, or thrown into the limelight. It follows the main storyline of Mansfield Park for the most part, as far as I’m aware (since I’m unfortunately behind on reading this classic).
Like the original, we have most of the characters, their names maybe tweaked to be more relatable to the time, though minus one sister. In this case I think the author combined Maria and Julia into this version’s Juliette, a rather fame/money driven individual (also true to every other adaptation, so I think it’s from the classic). Other than that I couldn’t give a huge breakdown comparison since I haven’t read the original, so I’ll apologize for that (though I’m really getting the feeling I should read it now).
Going into the characters, without that knowledge, I really enjoyed each of them, you can tell Watson put a lot of thought into how to get these characters into a much more modern setting. The Crawfords this time are affluent, but not because of being nobles, instead Harlan Crawford is a movie star with connections to Finley’s dead father, and Emma is happening to be in the play her brother has come to Chicago for. The one thing, that I’m a little troubled by that still came from the original (again as far as I can infer, it’s happened in all the adaptations), there’s a lot of blame placed on the women in actual relationships, or imagined. I would have liked to have seen this part extricated from the story, but again Watson made it so that it made sense with the overall character traits/development. I’m trying to list the actual scene, so it’s not spoiled, regardless of anyone’s experience with Jane Austen. To get to the point, there’s a scene where one character is turned down by their love interest, and immediately goes after someone in another relationship. Instead of the cheaters being blamed, the innocent party who simply said no are blamed for the transgression. It’ s a big part of the original plot, but I always got a bitter taste from it, which I guess is the point, but still. Not my favorite part of any of the adaptations/retellings.
Other Retelling Bonuses:
The one thing that stuck with me throughout the book was the play the author chose for them to act out in this retelling; A Midsummers night dream. I’ve seen the films and I know the play chosen changes with every version. This one though seems to be an excellent choice, at least in how the author relates it, the characters in the play yearning for each other as the main characters do, but knowing they can’t act on it. It was a really nice parallel and definitely made the drama in that moment extra tense. Poor Oliver and Finley.
Overall: 5 out of 5 Stars
This isn’t meant to be some epic fantasy story, where love drives every action, nor is it a sweet/serious contemporary. Instead, it’s a Jane Austen story modernized, and retold by an Author who very clearly loves the story itself. Once again, I’m not an expert on the original, nor have I read it, so I can’t guarantee how much is based from the original, and how much the author recreated. Even given the secret pining the characters go through (that just makes me get all twisted up, like can’t you just get together already???), and the blaming of an innocent party mentioned before, this book was really enjoyable. It kept me entertained throughout, and turning the page for more. I honestly would pick up another Jane Austen retelling if she had one!