Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: Evelina by Fanny Burney

Title: Evelina
Author: Fanny Burney
Genre: Classic
Publisher: Oxford World's Classics
First published: 1778
Pages: 276

Rating: 5 out of 10

It took me quite awhile to get to this book, but my sister enthusiastically insisted that I read it.

Evelina, which was written in 1778 and influenced the writing of Jane Austen, is the story of a girl who is coming out into society. This book is written in a flouncy, dramatic style. I can't picture this book being quite right any other way, even though the writing never exactly impressed me. It was also written in the form of letters, which allows Evelina (the main character, if you hadn't gathered that already from the title) to narrate in first person. She isn't the only one exchanging letters, either, allowing the author to give voice to other characters besides her heroine. It was unusual, but I didn't exactly care for this aspect of the writing style, either.

Evelina is a dreadfully irritating character. I loathed and wanted to slap her. She was incredibly flighty and timid, and I can't imagine anyone possibly liking her. When she first meets Lord Orville, he seems exceedingly interested in her, though I can't fathom any reason why. She is too shy to speak a word or even look at him, and in the middle of their dance, she runs away, because she is so afraid. Of what? For the rest of the night, she is the essence of bad company, distancing herself from all conversation and running around hiding from everyone.
Evelina is constantly running away from the tiniest of things (which aren't even problems or negative situations) because she is so very frightened. I have to wonder what she would do if presented with an actually frightening situation.

I liked the character of Lord Orville, even though I had to wonder what he could possibly see in our shallow heroine. His jealousy when Evelina is speaking to another man was endearingly funny, even though I couldn't believe how Evelina could be so stupid as to not realize what was going through her admirer's mind.
The other men who seek Evelina's attentions, notably Sir Clement Willoughby and Mr. Loval, are also comical, especially Loval.

The beginning of this book was pretty dry, and so was the middle. The end of the book, which suddenly struck up a flurry of events with mistaken and unknown identities, babies who were switched at birth, and other such things, was entertaining even though it seemed a bit rushed into.

This book was average - it was funny at times, but I couldn't bring myself to enjoy it all that much.