"Mansfield Park" by Jane Austen

What can I say about the heroine of Mansfield Park, Fanny Price, to truly do her justice? It's rumored that Fanny was Jane Austen's personal favorite and I have to agree. However, I will admit that I was disappointed in this novel.

How can I love the heroine and not love the novel? Here's the confession: Like Emma, I will not deny that the movie version of Mansfield is much more enjoyable than the book version. I really, really, really love the movie. And especially love Fanny Price, played by the amazing Francis O'Connor, in the movie. I listened to the book on CD and was pretty bored the entire time, mostly because I expected more action and adventure. The movie takes all the core elements of the novel and magnifies them into something much more dramatic and, at times, even scandalous! Fanny is witty, outspoken, and extremely moralistic. (Is moralistic a word or did I just make that up?) In the novel she is much more timid, but I love her regardless.

The thing I love most about this novel is the way it portrays the "grass is always greener on the other side" mentality that has been present in human nature from the beginning of time. I love that Fanny gets a taste of many different aspects of human life, human relationships, and human existence in general. Most of all, I love that she consistently chooses the better part. She is a true heroine and even if the book is dreadfully slow, she is worth the effort.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, I recommend that you read the book first. And then I'd be curious to hear if you're upset by the changes in the movie. It's a personal favorite and I will not be swayed, but I enjoy hearing differing opinions. Are you willing to take the challenge? I'll wait patiently for a thorough discussion afterwards!


"Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis

This is a book that everyone should read. Everyone. I have always appreciated C.S. Lewis, but this book made me realize why he is quoted again and again in religious talks. He took Christianity and said, "Here. Let's look at this in the most basic way possible. This is what Christianity is and always will be."

There are countless passages in this book that made me realize the simple, yet profound power of Christianity. Having been a Christian my entire life and having loved my Savior Jesus Christ for as long as I can remember, this book still surprised me. Not because what C.S. Lewis says is new, but because he presents it in a way I have never thought about it before.

One of my favorite lines in the entire book in the chapter on Pride. In a discussion about why God tries to make us humble, Lewis says, "He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are" (pg 127-8). He's so right, isn't he? We do strut about like little idiots, thinking that we are better than so-and-so for such-and-such a reason. But that is not what Christ wants for us. He wants us to love others and love ourselves so that we can, truly and fully, come to love Him.

I love this book. I love Christianity. And I want to share it!


"Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy

Can you believe it? I finally, FINALLY finished Anna Karenina! It only took two years (or maybe three), but I finally finished. What an accomplishment! Besides having to put this one on hold for books and assigned readings, I struggled to stay awake through a lot of it. Tolstoy's writing is truly beautiful and I love the short chapters, but like most novels written during this time period, there is just so much talking and feeling and thinking and looking at the sky. Although my only real complaint about Anna is . . . well . . . Anna.  I have to wonder why Tolstoy wrote a heroine who he must have known his readers would have a hard time respecting. She is beautiful and outwardly attractive in every way, but that is about it. By about page 600, I finally thought, "Ugh! I don't like her!" I do appreciate, however, the way Tolstoy painted a picture of two different lives. One of poor choices and sadness, another of restraint and deep satisfaction. Anna may not be a wonderful heroine, but there are other characters who do enough to redeem the novel as a whole. Kitty and Levin and Nickolay. They all have something unique and beautiful to offer. Even though it was hard to get through, I think Anna was worth reading. I'm proud to have read a Tolstoy novel at last, but don't think I'll be picking up War and Peace any time soon.  I've already started making a list for next year, so I think I better get through the 15 I have left for this year pretty quick!