Evelina - Fanny Burney, Elizabeth Wallace, Elizabeth Kowaleski Wallace At last I have finished reading what I fondly call 'my' Evelina! And it was a great read! I dare say I never enjoyed a romance that was so realistic and filled with so many social happenings that were nonetheless enjoyable! Or, at the very least, those which I could endure with good things in mind or the grand humor of other characters to support it. For a book that was written so long ago, it's a fantastically engaging novel for those who love the drama of social circles and romances not swiftly sped into. It took its time and I found myself warming to the idea of it becoming an eventual romance simply -because- it was so patient and trying whenever the subject was brought up! Seriously! Not even a -mention- of "love" until you were nearly at the very end of the book! And as one who can easily be sickened by most superficial and false "romances," if I can even call them that, this was a -real- romance built up not on fluttery affections, womanly stupidity or sluttiness, and piggish vulgarity and assumption on the man's part.

MIND YOU... the novel was -not- wholly bereft of that, but those types of characters inside the book you could freely disdain and not have to worry about them getting the upper hand in the end. In fact, that's one of the best compliments I can pay this novel! Whether you liked or disliked a character, they wound up being treated justly and fairly according to their own personalities and the stupid or smart things they did. You didn't have to worry about stupid people getting the better end of the stick, because there's always absolutely AWESOME people--like Mr. Mirvan, his wife and daughter, Lord Orville, Mr. Macartney, or Mrs. Selwyn--to balance out all the stupid people in the book that make you want to smack them, vehemently spit in their faces, or just outright beat the crap out of them for being dirty scoundrels. And I mean, borderline ASSAULT dirty! Trust me, the words wouldn't be so vicious if they didn't give me ample reason in a handful of parts that certain groups of young men were considering some sort of sexual assault, or at least were likely to lead up to it.

But even as to the characters, there were some that at first glance seemed like they weren't that bad, that ended up not even a few "chapters" later to be the most obnoxious and disgusting of people! Mr. Lovel and Mr. Willoughby come quite swiftly to mind. And then there were those that just came off as PURE EVIL from the moment you met them it seemed! And good Lord! With absolute snobs like the Madame Duval and the Branghton family, who can wonder at the desire that comes to mind to slap them in the face a few times and push them down a flight of stairs?! Alright, so I'm over-exaggerating that part. One of the interesting things that it would be a crime to leave out of my commentary is that, whether a character is good or bad overall in your mind, each one of them had a chance of doing the opposite. Sometimes characters I liked ended up doing things that I completely disagreed with and couldn't help but feel disappointed about. At other times, I actually remember breathing sighs of relief when Mr. Obnoxious came in and did or said something to save Evelina from some situation of emotional embarrassment or some real physical danger. It truly balanced out the characters, every single one of them! Even the characters you would normally term "minor" had a role to play, and more often than not, they always appeared multiple times throughout the novel! You didn't just meet them once and then never see them again, you actually got to see different sides of them, and even if they didn't change much, you really got a full view of who they could be. There was VERY little, if -any- flatness at all to the characters in this novel, and that functioned as one of the primary points of compliment and enjoyability. Mind you, every character got their own just ends, as bad or gentle as they deserved, as far as I'm concerned. And that's another great part about this book, that no matter how much you cared or didn't, you don't have to deal with the obnoxious rats throughout ALL of it, because there's always someone better to come along and save you with a MUCH better part to read! The fact that most of the chapters were pretty short too made reading them all great!

On that note, the manner in which the novel was written is, as far as I'm concerned, one of the most skillful and engagingly used methods of the "corresponding back-and-forth by letters" style that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Frances Burney, as the author, used this method so skillfully that no matter what turn happened, she -realistically- used the time periods between letters to change the stories, to affect whether or not someone knew a particular piece of information, to fill up time, and even as a route to turn the story in many cases to a completely different line of events than you thought would originally happen! At each new letter we'd read where the main character, Evelina for the most part, was writing from, and sometimes find ourselves surprised when she was suddenly corresponding from London and not the house of her friends! To what had this change in location occasioned?! It was a wonderful method of keeping the plot going, and even when you're sitting there thinking, "Oh no, now we have to wait for THIS person to respond before the current storyline can go any further," you're immediately entertained by some new plot or incident that the delay now gave us a chance to have happen! It was brilliant! It was expert in its execution! And even when you were reading parts you thought you couldn't stand, the method of writing is so easy that you flow along with it anyway, and find yourself reading further before you've even had a chance to react fully to what was going on lines before! It's amazing that this turned out to be so engaging for something so... so... normal!

That is the difference and where Burney's excellence really shines in this novel. The fact that she could take a -very- realistic situation, but she could nonetheless fill it with dramatic, hilarious, frustrating, unbelievable, delightful, and then altogether attention-keeping events that never ceased to play on the emotions of the reader! I am certain that while it's not as jam-packed with "action" as an adventurous tale, it was capable of definitely holding its own against one, because, unlike those tales, this was a story that one could -relate- to and offer -real- opinions on, from their -own- experiences in life! You were able to not only -believe- the characters, but half the time you forgot they -were- just made up! You would be so busy getting excited over this or that, or getting upset and astonished at him/her, that you could find yourself easily picking sides and keeping favorites. It was a wonderful experience for a novel to be so relevant, even considering the time period and issues it was written to have in mind! Perhaps it came off as a little dated, but even with those things taken into consideration, anyone with a mind for the realistic happenings in a young teenager's life would find this an enjoyable read.

As for the main character herself, Evelina is charming to begin with, but like the novel was meant for her experience, she is naive, and therefore she makes a GREAT many mistakes and incites a LOT of the things that happen in the novel. But throughout all of the things that she gets dragged into and accidentally brings upon herself, she still comes off as someone that tries her best to be polite and respectful, and yet is wonderfully perceptive and intelligent as well. The things she doesn't understand and the way she has troubles in dealing with the highly social behavior of everyone she meets makes her life difficult, yet she still always holds her own, and when she gets carried away by the crowd (sometimes literally) she still appeals to the good nature of those around her, always managing if not on her own then with the help of others (this is many times the case) to remove herself from those crazy situations. Nonetheless, throughout it all, she remains critical, but likewise easy to relate to. She's not going to be carried off by the first man that treats her kindly, and she won't stand to be treated like she's expected to do something for any guy that tries to take advantage of her either. Perhaps my greatest complaint with Evelina throughout the book--although considerably less towards the end of it--is that she often stumbled and held back what she wanted to say. I felt personally that if she had spoken more and stuck to her own choices instead of letting others influence or command her around so much, then she would have been a much stronger character. Yet, at the same time, I came to realize by the end of the novel that if she -had- done any of those things, she would have very likely not have ended up as happy as she did. By being so critical and perceptive, and yet so polite, she kept one thing that we're often liable to forget can really be a sign of character not just for that time period, but in any time: and that was her ability to -be- polite -no matter- the company or situation she had, which is a LOT to say once you've seen the types of company she really had to endure, poor girl. Truthfully, she leaves behind the feeling not of disappointment, but of satisfaction and relief! You feel that the ending of the book is justified, that everything worked out in a way that, though you may not have known just how it would, still made you appreciate her methods and recognize just how capable she was of handling the things she went through. She learned a lot, and grew a lot, but she never lost who she was, and that's a feat worthy of my respect over any claims I may have to minor disappointments here or there that her actions brought to my mind.

Overall, Evelina--both the novel and the character--is a wonderful experience. Would that most young women had the sense of value and virtue that Evelina did, without the stupidity! For while Evelina was innocent, she was -not- dumb. Thank the Heavens for that! She was a charming character throughout the book, and one you -can- find faults in, but likewise, -every- character had their faults in this book, but it was these things that made the characters so realistic and relatable. And this book survives on its characters, for if you had other people in the same situations, they could not have made it as entertaining as some of them did! Whether this is your cup of tea or not, I can promise you one thing, you'll almost never be bored! If you're not pleased with the girly tales, well there's always some kind of internal riot being caused or another! And the annoyances are enough to keep you going until something that catches your attention comes up. It is by no means an intense read, however, but it's got all the drama anyone would desire out of today's generation. Trust me! Pleeeenty of drama! It's a longer book, but take a read! Ignore the time period and the minor changes in how things are done, and you've got the basics for a really entertaining story. Read it on a rainy day, and prepare yourself to be carried away by your emotions! Trust me, you'll want to get riled up for this one! It's a joy in and of itself to do so! <3