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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Evelina

Evelina, or The History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World, 1779
by Frances (Fanny) Burney
512 pages
originally published in 1778

I don't usually like to quote plot summaries but these few sentences from Amazon.com describe the book perfectly:
Fanny Burney's first novel Evelina was the chick-lit novel of 1778 - all about a young girl's adventures in London, and one of the best of its kind ever written.... [the novel] is a vivid, satirical, and seductive account of the pleasures and dangers of fashionable life in late eighteenth-century London. As she describes her heroine's entry into society, womanhood and, inevitably, love, Burney exposes the vulnerability of female innocence in an image-conscious and often cruel world where social snobbery and sexual aggression are played out in the public arenas of pleasure - gardens, theatre visits, and balls. But Evelina's innocence also makes her a shrewd commentator on the excesses and absurdities of manners and social ambitions.... Evelina, comic and shrewd, is at once a guide to fashionable London, a satirical attack on the new consumerism, an investigation of women's position in the late eighteenth century, and a love story.
That is the PERFECT description of this book. I chose to read it for the 1% Well Read Challenge based solely on the title, which I thought sounded interesting. Boy was this a good choice!

I got such a kick out of reading Evelina's adventures. She is so innocent of the world and gets into situations that she doesn't know could be damaging to her. Plus the formality of this bygone era is quite entertaining to read about (not that I'd want to live in that era by any means!).

I'm guessing that this is a fairly unknown book because 1) I'd never heard of it before, and 2) I've never seen it reviewed on a blog before. Maybe I'm wrong here, but I'd say this is an over-looked classic.

Since I knew nothing about this story ahead of time, I was continually surprised by the plot development. When is the last time you read a book that you knew absolutely nothing about? For me it has been quite a while - lately I'm reading books that have been repeatedly reviewed or that I've had on my wish list for various reasons. I had forgotten the excitement of not have a CLUE about what is coming next. Hooray for the simply pleasures of an unknown story!

The language is a bit old fashioned but once I got used to it I rather enjoyed it. If you like PRIDE AND PREJUDICE or other books in that vein, you should give EVELINA a try. The dialogue isn't as clever as in Austen's work but the tone is the same ... I think you'll enjoy it.

14 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

It sounds really good! I'm always in awe of the summary writers for book blurbs - they do seem to get it exactly right so often!

violetcrush said...

P&P is like my most favorite book, so I might give this a try. I like the name Evelina.

Ruth said...

Wow, sounds intriguing! I've never heard of this book or author, so thanks for the review.

Meghan said...

When I went to England to study abroad for this first time, I took an English literature class and was absolutely amazed by all the classics I'd never heard of before. This was one of them and I've been meaning to read it ever since! Your review has encouraged me quite a bit. =)

Heather J. said...

rhapsodyinbooks - You know, you're exactly right, and I've never thought about that before. I have much admiration for those blurb writers now!

violetcrush - Evelina doesn't have the same pithy dialogue or the same degree of humor, but it does have the same feel and I highly enjoyed it.

Ruth - Don't you love it when you hear about something completely new? I do!

Meghan - Fascinating! Are there any other ones that caught your attention? I'd love to hear about some new-to-me classics.

Amanda said...

Oh that sounds great! And I've never even heard of it. Great review!

Alyce said...

I haven't heard of this book before. I agree that reading multiple reviews for a book can sometimes take the excitement out of it.

Heather J. said...

Amanda - And it counts for the 1% Well Read Challenge too!

Alyce - I love it when I hear about something completely unexpected, especially an old book ... it's exciting for me.

Jules said...

I'm reading this book for my 18th and 19th Century Women Writers Challenge. And I need a replacement book for one of my 1% well read books, maybe this will be it. Thanks for the review.

Heather J. said...

Jules - Gotta love it when you can double-dip for challenges. :)

Teresa said...

Thanks so much for reviewing this! I had heard of it before, but I had no idea if it was worth reading. It sounds like a real treat. I'll add it to my list.

hopeinbrazil said...

Lovely post. I'll be sure to get my hands on a copy of this book.

gautami tripathy said...

Love the cover!

BTW, I lost my book blog to Malware. everything distils into reading is my new blog. Please do visit it, link it, subscribe to it or follow it! Do help me spread the word.

ibeeeg said...

This book sounds like a read I should put on to my TBR list.

I read alot of reviews but do not read them shortly before I read the book. So, in some ways, most books I do not know what really is going to happen (Unless it is a super-hyped book). I prefer it this way. Also, I never read the back of the book cover right before starting the read.

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