Rarely have I felt as sorry for a fictional character as I have for Cecilia!
At the beginning of this wonderful novel, Cecilia seems to have everything going for her: she is young, intelligent, charming, good-looking, and to top it all of: as soon as she will come of age (which is at the beginning of the novel just a matter of months away), she will inherit a large fortune. There is however one condition: she cannot give up her name, should she marry and take her husband's name she loses her inheritance. To us this may appear at first to be a minor detail, but in the patriarchical society England then was, it will turn out to make all the difference. Until she will come of age Cecilia is placed under the care of three guardians, none of whom she has ever met: Mr. Harrel, married to a childhood friend of Cecilia, Mr. Delvile, and Mr. Briggs. So at the beginning of the novel Cecilia travels to London to stay with Mr. and Mrs. Harrel until she comes of age...
So where and how does it all go wrong for Cecilia? Well, there's nothing much I can say without this review turning into a spoiler so I can only urge you to find out for yourselves, and hope you'll enjoy this novel as much as I did. Admittedly, it's long (941 pages) but it's never boring or long-winded, with lively dialogues and captivating characters, with action ranging across all layers of society, and you'll find yourself rooting for Cecilia from the very start. At times this novel reminded me of Vanity Fair (Wordsworth Classics)
, with its depiction of how 'man is wolf to man', and it is definitely a very critical study of the high cost to women (even young and wealthy ones) of a patriarchical society. As one of the characters early one in the novel says to Cecilia: 'Poor simple victim! (...) knowest not that thou art destined for prey!'.