Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review of Evelina by Fanny Burney

Name of Book: Evelina

Author: Fanny Burney

ISBN: 0-19-281596-2

Publisher: Oxford World's Classics

Type of book: society, 1777-1778, Britain, orphan, manners, country, diversions, company

Year it was published: 1778


Evelina, the first of Burney's novels, was published anonymously and brough her immediate fame. It tells the story of a young girl, fresh from the provinces, whose initiation into the ways of hte world is frequently painful, though it leads to self-discovery, moral growth, and, finally, happiness. Hilarious comedy and moral gravity make the novel a fund of entertainment and wisdom. Out of the graceful shifts from the idyllic to the near-tragic and realistic, Evelina emerges as a fully realized character. And out of its treatment of contrasts- the peace of the countryside and the cultured and social excitement of London and Bristol, the crows od life-like vulgarians and the elegant gentry- the novel reveals superbly the life and temper of eighteenth-century England, as sen through the curiosity of its young heroine.


The principal characters of Evelina and Lord Orville are incredibly boring and flat, despite Evelina's numerous misadventures in London in 1770s. Although in some parts I sympathized with her, I couldn't help but think of her and of everyone else as snobs and I felt very bad for Madame Duval. The speeches and situations are completely obsolete, at least I didn't grow up with them ,and its obvious that the novel is extremely dated. Evelina is "good" literally; she makes mistakes, but its out of goodness, there are no bad faults within her. It's not a casual read and it will be difficult to relate to a character that's literally dated. (This is also before the Regency times by the way... this in time of American Revolution.) Also, we dont' learn a lot about other characters and why they are the way they are.


This is basically a book of manners, and if you are a good person and have righteous causes, then good things will happen to you.


Right away the audience will understand and learn of Evelina's situation, that of an orphan living in a country with Mr. Villars who also used to look after Evelina's mother. There is something I wish that would be done; that would be the years written next to the dates because I could swear all this happened in one year, but they made it happen in two years. Also, its an epistolary novel from Evelina's point of view, and few other characters' as well, but Evelina is one telling the tale. It takes place in London and Bristol of late 1770s.

Author Information:

Author profile (from

June 13, 1752 in King’s Lynn, The United Kingdom

January 06, 1840


Literature & Fiction

About this author

Also known as Frances Burney and, after her marriage, as Madame d’Arblay. Frances Burney was a novelist, diarist and playwright. In total, she wrote four novels, eight plays, one biography and twenty volumes of journals and letters.


Curious about how London and Bristol will be like in 1770s? Would you want to know the appropriate things to do in company of gentlemen? Then this is the right book for you! I never thought I'd see the day when I'll give this book three stars. When I first read this book, it was for a Jane Austen class in 2008. First of all, back then, classics and are good like oil and water, and I had to read this book within a week or two. Back then the book was incredibly mind numbing and bland and I couldn't understand anything that was going on. Evelina could defenitely be thought of as an unrealistic character who seems to have no bad traits about her. Same would go for Lord Orville. Reading it the second time, at a more leisurely pace and perhaps due to the fact its my second time so the novel is more familiar, there is a strange enjoyment in reading it. I'm not sure if its due to re-reading or to a more leisurely pace. It's a book of manners and what to do in certain situations, but it also mixes in the more "scandalous" elements such as Evelina being an orphan and being abandoned by her father. There are convenient plot twists though, and as I was reading it, I couldn't help but think of how much leisure time the wealthy have.

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)


  1. I thought this book was a 3 of 5, too. I read it because I wanted a feel for the popular literature of the time, but I didn't exactly enjoy it. The characters were definitely forgettable. Thanks for a good review!

  2. Glad you liked the review MiaTheReader :D I read it for college, and during college read, I hated that book with a passion. Re-reading it last year, I was surprised that I sort of liked it, although it is extremely dated, and its probably an author one will never hear of or about unless college introduces them to her. I was also surprised that after college, I couldn't stand reading Jane Austen novels.

  3. Interesting comments.
    I'm reading this at the moment, about a third of the way through, reading it for the background material on the eighteenth century. I find Evelina quite priggish and judgmental, rather than charitable as a 'christian heroine' is meant to be (I suppose that is realistic in its way, but not a lovable trait, and I don't get the impression that F Burney realised how much she comes across that way).
    Lord Orville doesn't come to life at all in the way the wicked Sir Clement Willoughby does. I was quite shocked at how brutal Captain Mirvan is to Madame Duval.
    These days authors are frightened of creating 'Mary Sue's'. Evelina, like Pamela and Clarissa Harlowe, seems to be a prime example.


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