Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Evelina by Fanny Burney

I was fortunate enough to see a blog mention this little gem. First published in 1778, this classic is a delightful romance set in 18th century England. First published anonymously, it was an immediate success and was the first of the novels written by Fanny Burney (later Madame D’Arblay).

Basically a love story constrained by the social mores of the time, it will have you avidly reading - occasionally sighing at the longing and love story between Evelina and Lord Orville, sometimes frustrated by Evelina’s inability to extricate herself from some people and situations, wincing at poor Evelina's discomfort, and even laughing out loud to the Captain’s tricks.

Written as a series of letters, the story follows the introduction into society of Evelina, unrecognized daughter of Sir John Belmont and his deceased first wife. Brought up in the country by Rev. Villers, who was both the tutor of her grandfather, Mr Evelyn, and guardian of her mother, Carolyn, Evelina at the tender age of 17 is sent for a visit to Lady Howard at Howard Grove. Lady Howard’s daughter, Mrs Mirvan then takes her daughter Maria and Evelina with her to London to await the return of her husband from sea, Captain Mirvan. Thence really begins Evelina’s awakening!

Evelina’s visit to London and exposure to society is both awe inspiring and confusing for the innocent girl and she makes the first of many social faux pas as we are introduced to the social moirĂ©s of 18th century England.

Twists and turns, confusion and false identities abound and it is a surprisingly hard book to put down!

Although it predates her, any lovers of Jane Austen will definitely enjoy this satirical look at the fashionable society of the day. Highly recommended!!