Set in the 18th century England, ‘Evelina Or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World’ tells the story of Evelina Anville, a very beautiful girl who enters the fashionable London society with nothing but her beauty to recommend her.
Evelina’s father Sir John Belmont had disowned the marriage to her mother and refused to acknowledge her as his daughter. Her mother had died soon after giving birth to her. She led a quiet life in the country under the loving care of Rev.Arthur Villars who knew her grandfather and had also raised her mother. Evelina thus grew pure of heart and innocent to the ways of the world with a surname, an anagram of Evelina.
It is at this time that Evelina gets an invitation to go to London with Mrs. and Miss Mirvan, Rev. Villars acquaintances. Rev. Villars is not at all comfortable with the idea but he relents, seeing that Evelina longed for the visit.
When Evelina reaches London, she is amused by everything around her-the theatre, the parks, the balls, the dresses, the shopping and of course the people. She goes to her first ball in high spirits. But then she makes a lot of mistakes such as declining to dance with one and at once accepting to dance with another, keeping mum most of the time making her partner doubt whether she is stupid, laughing at the elaborate gestures of politeness of stylish men and giving vent to her emotions openly. The only positive thing that happens is her meeting with the handsome Lord Orville, who proves to be her champion many a time during the course of the story. At the second ball, she makes even a greater fool of herself and leaves the ball quite embarrassed.
Evelina becomes weary of London and is ready to leave at once. She understands that she is not polished enough for the high class society. Also her mysterious parentage raised eyebrows and encouraged unwanted comments and advances. But as fate should have it, she meets her grandmother Madame Duval! This was the person who was mostly responsible for the ill-fate of her mother. She could not now leave London in a hurry as that would be an insult to her grand-mother. Duty bound, she stays on in London.
Her wretchedness is not lessened when she meets her distant relations, the Branghtons. They give her a taste of the other side of the high class English society making her wish that she had never met them.
So what happens to Evelina next? How does she survive the onslaught of her grandmother and relatives? Will her father own her as his daughter and make her the most sought after heiress? Will she be able to marry the person whom she loves? Read the novel to find out.
The novel was written by Frances Burney in 1778. An anonymous publication meant that she had some pang of guilt for giving herself up for her passion for writing; during her time writing by women was frowned upon. However her novels became very popular during her time but unfortunately have lost importance in the recent years.
Frances Burney is famed to be precursor of Jane Austen and other authors of romance. Jane Austen herself was a great fan of Frances Burney. Her novels definitely had some influence over Jane Austen’s novels. Even the name of the famous novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is from one of the last paragraphs of Ms. Burney’s Cecilia.
If you are looking for a nice romantic novel made alive with colorful characters and a dash of humor and sarcasm, this book will be just perfect for you.