If you think back a few posts you might recall my slight tirade about Moll Flanders and its lack of chapters... Evelina also doesn't have chapters. Instead, it's written in letter form. A 'chapter' can be half a page or in some cases ten pages long. This I enjoyed far more than Moll simply because I could set a goal that wasn't "finish the novel" I was able to sit and read x amount of letters and call it a night, happy that I'd achieved my goal.
Evelina follows the life of the titular character as she enters London for the first time. Previously, she had been in seclusion living with her guardian Rev. Arthur Villars. The novel is set and wrote in the 18th Century, 1778 to be exact. The time at which a woman was valued for her looks, her station and her ability to be a wife. Nothing more. The only thing worse than reading a novel for a woman was to pen one herself. Something Frances Burney learned first hand. Her step-mother burned one of her early works. Not that it stopped her writing...
At it's heart Evelina is a satire. A novel that picks a subject to mock, in this case societal values and men's treatment of women. Many of the male characters were brutish and claimed to be gentlemen when their actions were nothing of the sort. Evelina's letters recount her time in London, how she coped with the advances of men and dealt with some of the faux pas she committed. Evelina, though a woman from another time is a character many can empathise with. I know I certainly do. She is in an unfamiliar city with few true friends, a group of raucous relatives and is unsure of how to behave in this new circle. She's an outsider, but it makes for a truly fantastic criticism of society.
Don't let the year it was published or the size intimidate you. This is well worth a read.