Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey etc

I've watched both and read a few negative comments about Billy Piper as Fanny - mostly gripes about the authenticity of her hair. I have to say though that this is the first time I have ever perceived that Fanny might be a sympathetic character and this is almost entirely down to Billy. Mansfield Park is probably my least favourite Austen novel, just as Northanger Abbey, the first one I ever read, remains my favourite, although only just! But it is hard to like Fanny.
The film version, which was shown recently, with its heavy handed political correctness, and unattractive hero, only served to emphasise just how trying a real life Fanny might have been - perhaps a measure of how much times have changed. But that's so infrequently an Austen fault, her people are invariably so real and recognisable, that as a reader or viewer you somehow feel it must be your own fault for not understanding. However there was a good natured charm, coupled with a sort of rock solid sense of what was right, about Billy as Fanny. It was an interpretation that I could not only live with, but found enlightening. So I could forgive her hair. I was too busy watching her performance.
The Radio Times did a little carping about Northanger Abbey (funny how they seldom seem to do this about major BBC productions) but I found it worked rather well, particularly Catherine's overheated imaginings. I once dramatised The Mysteries of Udolpho for Radio 4 - it was meant to be part of a Gothic season, but in the event, Udolpho was IT. A bigger load of old hooey I have yet to read, although I think I made a pretty good job of it, even if I do say so myself, with my tongue rather firmly in my cheek.
The only jarring note in Northanger came with the depiction of General Tilney as being much too close to one of those unrelenting Gothic villains. As I remember the story, Jane, true to life as ever, tells us that not only did the General really love his wife, but once he realises that Catherine isn't completely poverty stricken, he comes round in the end. The older I grow, the wiser I think that this woman was in her perceptions of the infinite adaptability of human nature to whatever the current situation happens to be!

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