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.