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Book review: 'Mansfield Park' a contemporary twist on Austen's novel

“SEEKING MANSFIELD,” by Kate Watson, Flux, $14.99, 312 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)

Utah author Kate Watson has spun a contemporary version of Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park” that hits the notes of the original story.

In “Seeking Mansfield,” Finley Price is living with the Bertrams, who are her godparents, as her actor father has passed away and her mother is in jail.

Oliver Bertram is about her age and has befriended her and helped her come out of her shell as she’s started to heal from the trauma from her family.

Fin helps out around the Bertrams’ home that’s in a row of townhouses on Mansfield Square, works as a janitor at a local theater and their Aunt Nora is always quick to remind her of her place in the home. She’s also figuring out if she wants to apply to a teen theater program for the summer.

Sibling actors Harlan and Emma Crawford move in with the Grants, their aunt and uncle who live next door to the Bertrams, to escape the drama of their parents’ very public divorce and they are also in the summer production of the Vow’s Theater’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Juliette Bertram is dating Raleigh Rushworth, an athlete and son of the local politician, but she also tries to go after Harlan.

Fin and Oliver are close, but it’s flirty Emma that he starts dating. Fin initially dislikes Harlan, but he tries to win her over. They have more than just a love of theater in common as Harlan also previously worked with her father.

Fin also has to come to terms with her family situation as she becomes stronger emotionally.

Watson, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has created an entertaining story that honors “Mansfield Park.” Those not familiar with Austen’s work can also enjoy the novel as there are twists and turns through the love stories as each person’s motives and character come to light.

There is no swearing or descriptive violence. The described romance doesn’t go beyond kissing.

Watson will be at the Salt Lake City Library’s Day-Riverside Branch, 1575 W. 1000 North, Salt Lake City, on May 16 at 7 p.m. as part of a panel discussion and book signing. See slcpl.org/events/view/6818/ for information.