I finished reading "Mansfield Park" last week, and since then I've been pondering something surprising that happened in the course of the reading: I slowly went from hating the book to absolutely loving it. It was similar, perhaps, to hiking up as mountainside, where the early going seems simply strenuous and uninteresting, but where the second half, as you ascend into the spectacular heights, opens out into a marvelous experience. This story dragged in a tedious way for many chapters, but slowly, very slowly, I started to see the beauties in the story, and especially in Austen's writing style. Her sentences, one after the other, shine with a sort of simple elegance. No unnecessary words are used, and the words and phrases seem set down in the exact right places, as though the author was placing jewels in necklaces, page after page. I also grew to love and admire the character of Fanny Price, whom many readers have belittled as overly shy and simple-minded. I find her to be a quietly heroic person, a woman who modestly but strongly stands up to some of the customs of her times.
It's a powerful, lovely novel -- and I'm glad I didn't abandon the climb up the mountain.