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Review: "Evelina" by Fanny Burney

Evelina is available in both free and illustrated editions in our ebook catalog.

Written by Fanny Burney in the late 1700s, many of the novel's social customs will seem illogical and random. But even for it's differences, one can't help seeing similarities between society of then and now. There is love, lust, outrage, sweetness, jealousy, and pride. Burney created a palate of diverse characters and relished in throwing them together in a mix of discord and harmony. It is said Jane Austen read Burney's novels as a young one--I can see where Austen drew her inspiration for colorful character interactions.

The story centers around beautiful Evelina, of dubious parentage and raised in seclusion in the countryside until her 17th year. She then travels to London and Bristol to experience "civilized" society first hand. The society she in fact meets with is comprised of a couple of sensible individuals and a whole lot of rascally men and hangers-on who take advantage of Evelina's naivete and good nature for their own purposes.

Highlights include the outrageous animosity between Captain Mirvan and the French Madame Duval. Their interactions are some of the funniest and most shocking bits of the book. The last part of the book is graced by Mrs. Selwyn who is described as mannish in both looks and demeanor (meaning she says what she thinks). She quickly became my favorite character, decidedly casting off the constantly encircling men that pervaded the first parts of the story. I'm convinced had Mrs. Selwyn not entered the story, Evelina's story would not have met with such a happy conclusion.

I highly recommend Evelina for it's readability and entertainment value. It has become one of my favorites of all time. This one is quite a page turner, so be prepared to set aside several hours for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

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