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Review: "Belinda" by Maria Edgeworth

Belinda may be downloaded for free from our ebook catalog.

While it didn't keep my heart racing or the midnight oil burning like Fanny Burney's Evelina, this was still an entertaining read. Belinda, first published in 1801, is the story of a young woman who comes of age amid the distractions and dangers of London society. From her stays at both the extravagant, aristocratic Delacours and the sober, rational Percivals, she molds her views on love and marriage and much more.

During my reading, I sometimes thought the book should have been called Lady Delacour rather than Belinda. I found Lady Delacour an amusing character and greatly enjoyed her parts of the novel. There is an interesting back-story to which Edgeworth devotes and entire chapter about a Lady Delacour's wild days with estranged friend Harriet Freke. It includes a duel between women, cross dressing, and an angry town mob. I thought it would be quite interesting to read a whole novel about Lady Delacour's past!

But this is Belinda's story, and a delightful one it is. Belinda learns from the mistakes of others (and many does she witness) rather than rashfully committing the mistakes herself. From her tutelage by Lady Delacour and the Percivals, we see Belinda grow from a confused little girl into a confident young lady that is admired and eventually depended upon by all. In love, her suitors find they must grow and prove their worth to her, rather than the reverse.

In Belinda one can find some semblance to her contemporary and admirer, Jane Austen. Personally, I find Austen a tad bit more accessible, I suppose for the simple fact that Austen didn't tackle as many "touchy" issues as Edgeworth (such as interracial marriage, colonialism, and the above-mentioned female dueling and cross dressing!). But however outdated her treatment of these issues, the main story remains the same, which is an engaging one and highly recommended.

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