Thursday, January 8, 2009


I read Evelina by Frances Burney as part of 18th & 19th Century Women Writers' Reading Challenge which is being hosted by Becky from Becky's Book Reviews.

I hate saying this, but I never heard of Frances (Fanny) Burney until I signed up for the challenge. And I was very happy to see that my local library had both Evelina and Camilla. I rushed out and picked up Evelina. I chose to read it first, because it was published first. It first was published in 1778 as an epistolary novel in three volumes.

Sitting down to read this book was another story. Foolishly I was avoiding this book like the plague. For some reason or other I was dreading reading it. After a lot of hmming and ahhing, I bit the bullet Monday and I started it.

Here's the blurb for Evelina:
Evelina, the first and best of Fanny Burney's novels, tells the story of a young girl, fresh from the provinces, at the time of 'her first appearance upon the great and busy stage of life'. In spite of 'a virtuous mind, a cultivated understanding, and a feeling heart', Evelina is ignorant of the ways of the world and her initiation is frequently painful, although it leads to self-discovery, moral growth, and happiness. The life and temper of eighteenth century England is revealed, through Evelina's curiosity, with all it's contrasts of situation and characters - from the peace of the countryside to the cultural and social excitement of London and Bristol; from the crowd of lifelike vulgarians to the elegant gentry. Hilarious comedy and moral gravity make the novel a memorial of entertainment and wisdom. Out of the grateful shifts from the idyllic to the near-tragic and realistic, Evelina emerges as a fully realized heroine.

After the initial shock of realizing that the whole book is in the letter/correspondence format, I enjoyed it.

I found Evelina a wonderful character. She was sweet, considerate, shy and with a need to be accepted. I loved the way she grew, she started off as an innocent miss from the country, and she learned how to survive through situations that she wouldn't normally have experienced. She made mistakes, which she tried to correct. Her relationship with Mr. Villars was truly a delight to read. Although she's not his biologically, he calls her "child of his heart".

The other characters were also good. I really enjoyed Madame Duval. I don't consider her a villain, but she wasn't one of those endearing characters. She was vain and manipulative. But she also added a flair to the story. Her wanting to control her "granddaughter", although she never cared for previously. I think it was more about money than feelings.

And then there's Lord Orville. Our hero. Evelina didn't particularly like him at the beginning - Sound familiar, anyone?. But once she got to know him better, well you get the rest. Anyway, their relationship was full of misunderstandings. And most of them were caused by a jealous suitor. I didn't see that one coming... But I don't want to give too much more. You really need to read this book.

Although the book started off a little slow in the begginning, overall I found the book was entertaining. I highly recommend it!

Evelina by Frances Burney (4.5/5) Classic Literature; Published: 1778; 2009 100 + Reading Challenge (2); 2009 Support Your Local Library (2); 18th & 19th Century Women Writers' Reading Challenge (1);

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