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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful and acerbic novel of manners.
Rather shorter and easier to read that Burney's later novels, this a delightful story about a naive and sheltered girl entering into 'polite' society in the last quarter of the 18th century. As a beauty, Evelina is subjected to unrelenting sexual harrasment that she is barely equipped to cope with and a range of social humiliations that would make a much less sensitive...
Published on 22 Aug 2000 by jhildrop@hotmail.com

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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unfinished
As it was the first time I was going to the book group and it was the title up for discussion, I tried hard to read this book, but in the end closed my kindle on it less than half way through. Written in the form of letters it does what it says in the title in describing the events in Evelina's introduction to society in 18th Century. I felt I was probably missing out...
Published 8 months ago by KED


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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful and acerbic novel of manners., 22 Aug 2000
By 
Rather shorter and easier to read that Burney's later novels, this a delightful story about a naive and sheltered girl entering into 'polite' society in the last quarter of the 18th century. As a beauty, Evelina is subjected to unrelenting sexual harrasment that she is barely equipped to cope with and a range of social humiliations that would make a much less sensitive person cringe. As is usual in Burney's novels, Evelina is surrounded by a range of grotesque and entertaining characters (my favourites being the appalling, but enjoyably assertive 'French' grandmother and the acid-tongued Mrs Selwyn) and no punches are pulled in satirising the arrogance, hypocracy and deceit underlying fashionable society. In particular the ugly and offensive sexism to which all the women in the book are treated - young and old, rich and poor, plain and beautiful - is quite horrifying to modern eyes and it says a lot for Evelina that she manages to hang onto her self-respect and dignity in the face of it. Finally, the book gives a vivid impression of the range of new entertainments that were becoming available to amuse the 18th century leisured classes - including such novelties as "sight-seeing" and "shopping".
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Breezier and bawdier than Austen, 17 Oct 2009
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Evelina: Or the History of A Young Lady's Entrance into the World (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Fanny Burney is often unfavourably compared to Jane Austen which I think is very unfair. In Evelina, some of the similarities are more prominent than in her other books (in terms of plot and milieu, at least) but I don't think it's helpful to approach this expecting another Pride & Prejudice.

Evelina has a tangled family history full of eloped marriages and abandonments: brought up by her clergy-man godfather, she has lived a sheltered life in the country until a family friend invites her to stay and Evelina makes her unexpected debut in London. There she send all the young men into a spin, and encounters her French grandmother who has plans of her own.

This is written in epistolary mode, with the majority of the letters being Evelina's own account of her doings. Burney is far bawdier that Austen and reminds me a little of Fielding, with Evelina as a more moral Tom Jones let loose on the big world with all her innocence. Her French grandmother, in particular, is a wonderful character with her bad English and her dodgy manners; as is the father of Evelina's best friend, who is one of the rudest men in literature.

We know there's going to be a happy ending from the start and there are no twists in the romance plot. But for something far breezier and bracing than Austen (who I love) this is highly recommended.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who said 18th century literature was boring?, 17 Aug 2001
By 
A. van Gelderen "Anna van Gelderen" (the Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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Anyone who loves Jane Austen (and don't we all?) will certainly enjoy Fanny Burney's Evelina. Burney is really a precursor of Austen, but has unfortunately been completely overshadowed by the later novelist. In its time (1778) Evelina was a tremendous hit and shy Fanny Burney a celebrated author overnight. She was invited into the iterary circle of Samuel Johnson, became a reluctant lady-in-waiting to Queen Charlotte because of her celebrity and at age 41 married a refugee from the French Revolution, thus becoming Madame D'Arblay (check out her interesting diaries). The subtitle of Evelina (The History of A Young Lady's Entrance into the World) says it all: Evelina is an innocent and naive young girl, who suddenly finds herself in unfamiliar London society, surrounded by suitable and not so suitable suitors and a host of other characters. Lots of misunderstandings and perilous situations block Evelina's road, but don't be surprised to find humour and suspense as well, for the continuing question is of course whether Evelina will survive Society unscathed. Even though the pace of a novel more than 2 centuries old may be a bit slow for some, this is something you get used to soon enough: the novel contains far too much life, fun and social commentary to be dull.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpected favourite, 11 Nov 2009
This review is from: Evelina: Or the History of A Young Lady's Entrance into the World (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
I picked this up at a second hand bookshop for next to nothing as something to read along my commute. Having expected to find it an inferior version of an Austen, I was pleasantly surprised by Burney's debut novel and will certainly be moving on to Camilla. Although Evelina can be a frustrating heroine at times (for a large part of the novel she comes across as a bit wet, but perhaps that's my fault for comparing her to the likes of Elisabeth Bennett - which is a somewhat unfair comparison) and generate some eye-rolling, she does provide a fascinating insight into Regency manners and courtship. As the previous reviewer points out, this is a lot bawdier and more realistic than Austen. As an Austen fan this can take some getting used to, as can the epistolary style, but once the reader gets used to the style and into the story it just gets better and better.

A new favourite on my bookshelf...I only hope the BBC sees its merits and puts together a good old fashioned Sunday evening drama series soon!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Account of Propriety in the 18th Century, 16 July 1999
By A Customer
This story, although seeming to take the shape of a soap opera with the many twists and turns of society, was spellbinding in its wonderful protrayal of decorum under usually wild circumstances. The young Evelina is thrust into society and into the hands of wolves, mostly because she is so beautiful. The most wonderful thing about her is NOT her beauty, but her elegant and ignomious education and charm. She a beauty to the core and always wishing to do the right thing. To share her difficulties is almost heart wrenching. To share her delight is heart warming. Evelina will steal your heart as she did Lord Orville's. Wait and see.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something new for Jane Austen fans, 3 Feb 2012
By 
susie (Hertfordshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Evelina: Or the History of A Young Lady's Entrance into the World (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
If you like Jane Austen, you'll love this.

This is the first book by Frances Burney that I've read, but I will certainly be reading others. Like Austen's books Evelina is a witty tale of romance and people's place in society.
The book was a present and at first glance I thought I might not enjoy it because the story is told in the form of letters between the central characters and I thought that it might make it quite stilted, but Burney found each character's 'voice' and has a way of making the action unfold in a dramatic way.
The plot is compelling - briefly, Evelina has led a sheltered life, being raised by a country Parson who is not a relation and the book is about Evelina's introduction to society. Her mother died in childbirth and her father has refused to recognise her existence - without his acknowledgement, she cannot marry well. She obviously falls in love with a man far above her station and has other suitors beating a path to her door but will she find true love in the end? You'll have to read it to find out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Before Jane Austen, 30 Mar 2011
By 
P. B. Sanders (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Evelina: Or the History of A Young Lady's Entrance into the World (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
What an utterly remarkable book! It is was published in 1778 and is a milestone in the development of the novel. I didn't think the device of using Evelina's letters to tell the story really works. The letters in reply to Evelina were so short and so largely irrelevant to the development of the story that the correspondence sometimes seemed contrived and artificial, and on occasion I couldn't imagine how Evelina found the time to write her letters. However, if the novel form barely exists then I guess Frances Burney had to reveal Evelina's thoughts in a way that would seem plausible and familiar to the readers of the time.

I enjoyed the book most for its description of genteel society in the 1770s, and how startlingly different this was from what Jane Austen portrayed half a century later. Most of the characters who appear are so selfish and self absorbed, so rude and unpleasant, and so utterly predatory that it suggets that the polite conversation and manners portayed by Jane Austen was no more than a set of stock phrases and gestures that had been learned for occasional use. It always seemed to me that Jane Austen's characters could perfectly well express themselves within those conventions, but in Evelina only the cardboard superhero Lord Orville is able to do that, and only later in the novel do we come across Mrs Selwyn to represent the self-confident and erudite women so beloved by Jane. Beyond that we find Evelina and most of the young women she meets to have few choices about what they are permitted to do or say, mere toys of the men they meet and the imperious older women of their circle.

I had always thought that Jane Austen was describing a world that really did exist, at least for some, but Frances Burney made me wonder whether that later description was largely imaginary, a device to flatter her readers that they did possess a deeply embedded and admirable gentility rather than just a paper thin assemblage of phrases and conventions. It could of course all have changed in the time between Frances Burney and Jane Austen but I doubt it. I found the world that Frances Burney created for Evelina, in truth the world we see in Hogarth's satirical prints, much more convincing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little long perhaps, but very fresh and entertaining, 20 Dec 2010
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Evelina: Or the History of A Young Lady's Entrance into the World (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Evelina is the (unacknowledged) child of Lord Belmont, and after the death of her mother has been raised by the clergyman Mr. Villars. Having turned sixteen, she is now about to 'enter into the world', and it is mostly Evelina herself who tells her story in a series of letters to her godfather Mr. Villars while she is in staying with friends (in London and diverse other places). At first everything seems perfect bliss: Evelina stays in charming company, goes to her first ball, the theater, the opera, etc. But soon she is confronted with the fact that there's more to 'the world' than this carefree existence in the company of nothing but the most charming people: some men, so it seems, have hidden agendas, and neither are all the women as decent as one might suppose. There is the jockeying for position, (cruel) humour at the expense of others, shameless flirting, money-grabbing, ... Inexperienced and innocent, Evelina at times is bewildered and at a loss what to do or how to behave herself, but she is a quick learner and ultimately succeeds in her 'rites of passage' thanks to her good nature, intelligence, and almost intuitive feel for what is proper and what is not.

Although virtually everything is reported in Evelina's letters (there are but a few letters not written by her in the book), we nevertheless get to know all other characters extremely well because Evelina is a master not just at describing other characters' appearance, habits and quirks, but above all in rendering their speech, quoting dialogues in great detail. And so we get to know a very colourful cast of characters not just by what they do but also by what they say: the brutal Captain Mirvan, Evelina's low-born grandmother Madame Duval, the conceited Mr. Lovel, the deceitful Clement Willoughby, the charming Lord Orville, ...

To me it was above all the aforementioned liveliness of speech which made this book a very entertaining read. In terms of plot this is by no means a cliffhanger and there isn't much happening, but I felt myself nevertheless compelled to read on, often well into the night, largely because Evelina is such a likeable person and writes lovely letters. Other than that, I should add that the entire book is a fascinating journey back into the past, giving insight into a multitude of facets of late eighteenth-century (upper class) life. There are extensive notes too, and though they make for frequent leafing back and forth, I found them very informative.

First published in 1778, and still very enjoyable in 2010!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice and sweet story., 30 July 2013
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Had just finished reading Pride and Prejudice for the millionth time and was looking for something like Jane Austen in style. After reading through some internet blogs and lists I decided on this one, especially as it is thought that the title Pride and Prejudice comes from one of Burney's novels: Cecilia. I figured if Austen loved her I might as well. And I did. Mostly. I shan't lie there some parts of it were Evelina really annoyed me but for most part I enjoyed reading it and would definitely read it again...or at least the parts I like again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent notes, 6 July 2013
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This review is from: Evelina: Or the History of A Young Lady's Entrance into the World (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
This was a present, Evelina being one of my favourite novels, and I only had a quick look at the notes on the computor but these seemed to me to be excellent both in tone and content.
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