I just finished reading Evelina for a class I’m taking called “Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries.” Quite honestly, I took the class primarily so I would have an excuse to read all of Jane Austen’s novels (again). Evelina was the first novel we read for the class.
The story follows Evelina, a young girl whose mother died and whose father denies her existence. Raised by her grandfather’s former tutor, Evelina grows up in the country, innocent of the pleasures and perils of London. When she attends a friend’s family to “town,” she is often embarrassed by her lack of knowledge concerning the customs of high society, but, after a series of somewhat comic and somewhat traumatic mishaps, she finally finds her place in the world.
Evelina is the first epistolary novel I’ve read. Though I was expecting to find difficulty in following the plot through the letters written back and forth between characters, 3/4 of the letters were from Evelina, so it was almost like reading a first-person narration of the story with occasional glances into other characters’ minds. After reading all of Jane Austen’s novels over the summer, I’ve grown to love the “18th century country comedy/romance” genre, and Evelina fits into that category pretty well. I enjoyed it, even if she got on my nerves once in a while (I felt she was a little too much of a goody-two-shoes sometimes).
Overall, it’s definitely something I would pick up again, and I’m looking forward to reading more of Fanny Burney.