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Publisher's Summary

Fanny Burney's wickedly funny satire follows the trials and romantic adventures of the young and beautiful Evelina as she tries to make her way through 18th-century Britain handicapped by her three great problems: being poor, being illegitimate - and being a girl.

Evelina was a raging best seller when it was first published in 1778 and is widely credited with being the first of the great British domestic novels. Burney was a direct influence on her immediate follower, Jane Austen, who used some of the final lines from Burney’s novel Cecilia for one of her own fairly successful novels: "...if to pride and prejudice you owe your miseries...to pride and prejudice you will also owe their termination".

Public Domain (P)2008 Silksoundbooks Limited

What listeners say about Evelina

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Get This Version!

I decided to get this version of Evelina due to the poor reviews that the other recording receives from Audible UK listeners. It was a good choice! Make sure to listen to the audio samples of both. The cast here is fantastic.

Evelina is a charming novel with some unforgettable comedic moments. Now if only Audible would also record Cecilia & Camilla!

21 people found this helpful

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I am astonished

This was an amazingly complex witty and astonishingly relatable considering the time period. No one could have performed the innocence of Evelina as well as Finty Williams. Not to mention the way she captured the secondary and tertiary characters. I relished in the romantic diction of this book!

9 people found this helpful

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The Trifling Production of a Few Idle Hours

I achieved something akin to parallax vision while listening to this book. The second perspective that made everything so 3-dimensional was Leo Damrosch’s The Club, an account of the convivial meetings of Boswell, Johnson, Burke, Gibbon, Sir Joshua Reynolds and others at the Turk’s Head Tavern in the latter third of the 18th Century. Damrosch’s social history rings true to Burney’s picture of London; conversely, Burney’s observations interlard Damrosch’s narrative at pretty regular intervals.

Not that it required supplementary reading to render this novel enjoyable. What, in her dedication Burney refers to as “the trifling production of a few idle hours” is, by turns, comic and pathetic, with a cast of vivid characters whose story bestows the same sense of sanity and equilibrium one gets at the conclusion of a Jane Austen novel: the man and woman who merit each other get each other while the shallow, silly and self-centered characters just go on being shallow, silly and self-centered. To be sure, there’s more of the rough-and-tumble exuberance of 18th Century England than one meets with at Highbury or Kellynch Hall. Oaths are sworn and swords are even drawn. But along the way, we get finely-rendered observations that remind us our human nature never changes:

“…it was evident that he purposed to both charm and astonish me by his appearance: he was dressed in a very showy manner, but without any taste; and the inelegant smartness of his air and deportment, his visible struggle against education to put on the fine gentleman, added to his frequent conscious glances at a dress to which he was but little accustomed, very effectually destroyed his aim of figuring, and rendered all his efforts useless.” (Letter 50)

“I knew not, till now, how requisite are birth and fortune to the attainment of respect and civility.” (Letter 64)

And, because human nature is so immutable, the advice Burney’s characters offer for dealing with it is still as useful as ever:

“Where anything is doubtful, the ties of society, and the laws of humanity, claim a favorable interpretation; but remember, my dear child, that those of discretion have an equal claim to your regard.” (Letter 49)

“…certain it is, that the prevalence of fashion makes the greatest absurdities pass uncensured, and the mind naturally accommodates itself even to the most ridiculous improprieties, if they occur frequently." (Letter 65)

As these excerpts suggest, one must attune one’s ears to the cadences (and distances) of 18th Century sentences. But the rewards are well worth the effort. Of the two recordings available through Audible, I chose this one for its cast. Years of British television have made Judy Dench and Geoffrey Howard favorites in our home. And our kids grew up watching Angelina Ballerina, voiced by Dench’s daughter, Finty Williams. All are superb but, unless Geoffrey Howard could do more with his voice than I suspect, the actor who voices the letters of Lord Willoughby and Mr. Macartney goes uncredited.

5 people found this helpful

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What great fun to go back in time in England

First I must comment on the great narration! The only one of the trio I was not familiar with was Flinty Williams who did a marvelous job as Evelina as a young woman!

The book, I believe, is set during the regency period. At that time people wrote many letters often of some length. That is the means via which our story is moved.

Our heroine, Evelina, has been raised in the country by a parson in who's care her dying mother entrusted. She is well educated by him and, we learn, very comely though very innocent as she enters London's society.

I found the novel to be more a coming of age story than a love one. If you are interested in the times and manners of the period, as well as how people wrote and spoke, you should find this story most enlightening and enjoyable.

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A bit tedious

Excellent reading. One needs a lot of patience with this book, which is understandable bearing in mind the century it was written.

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Evelina

A period piece.. Flowery and sophisticated use of the mores and morals of the time. One wonders that human communication at one time had such a rule bound and structured manner, as well as behaviors. A bit long. One wishes Evelina could have surpassed her challenges with a little less digression. Poor girl makes good.

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The monkey chapter makes it all worthwhile!

Three narrators suits the epistolary form of Evelina, and this also makes it the best recording available on audible. I read Burney's novel basically to get an insight into what Jane Austen was reading, but I found Burney's humor to be better than Austen's. The monkey chapter, which comes at the end of the novel, is simply hilarious, and a type of humor that Austen never achieves. Well worth a listen.

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This is the best version!

This is the best performance. I very much enjoyed the story. I can see why Frances Burney inspired Jane Austen and there is at least one phrase (pertaining to a woman's reputation) that is identical to one used in Pride And Prejudice. Burney has the same sarcastic wit as Austen, which had me laughing out loud at times. Frances Burney is my new favorite author.

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Better performance than the other version

Multiple emotions of comedy, hesitation, farce, impropriety, innocence. Good for vocabulary building and now I know where Jack Robinson first appears. The letter style could have been stilted, but seems to melt away into fluid narration, a precursor of "Emma". I can see why Austen liked it.
I liked this version because Ender Wiggin does not replace Rev. Villars.

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It will keep you busy, if you like this kind of thing

I like old books, and I love Jane Austen. This book is absurd, and, unsurprisingly, incredibly dated. The satire is so thick that it can be hard to handle, and the main character is kind of an idiot (though I think we aren’t suppose to think her a fool). There’s a lot of cringe comedy, 1700s style, which can be tiring. All the men (except two) pretty much suck, and most of the women too. All the men fall in love with our main character for no particular reason, and she acts awkward as hell around all of them, and is subjected to constant harassment. There are a few plot twists but they take forever, and almost the whole book would be avoided if the main characters communicated even a little.

The narration was fine, but many of the characters sounded very much alike, which is a bummer.

I’d read this before, but didn’t remember much about it—but if you can stick it out until the monkey at the end, that’s a nice treat. I’m still very grateful this audiobook exists, as this is a good way to pass the time while doing chores.

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  • Copperbird
  • 06-05-21

astonishingly modern

I must admit, I was surprised at the straight talking feminism in this piece. Loved it.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ms. E. K. Hazlewood
  • 04-07-21

stunning

I had never heard of Frances Burney before but now I wonder why she is not better known, as this story was every bit as delightful as Jane Austen.

I cannot speak highly enough of the narration. Finty Williams was a perfect choice for the role, and of course Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer were excellent also. An engaging and enchanting performance, just wonderful.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 03-20-21

A wonderful romantic comedy, excellently read

A story that inspired Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, though rather more raucous. The story doesn't take itself too seriously. Look out for several familiar quotes, and overlapping themes. The readers bring the characters to life and, as the story takes shape in the form of a series of letters, the varied cast makes it easy to follow who is speaking. One of the most enjoyable audiobooks I've listened to so far.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Lynn
  • 06-14-19

Did the reviewer read this book?

I ask that because I found the book neither wickedly funny, nor a satire. Also, Evelina is not poor nor illegitimate. Instead, this is a straightforward story set in the highly mannered times of Regency England, concerning a girl who's father did not raise her (for mysterious reasons). Instead, she is gently raised by a loving parson and has proof of the marriage of her mother. She also has prospects and expectations of income from her grandmother, so no worries there!
But Evelina is very innocent, and unaware of her own beauty. We only become aware of her beauty through the reactions of other characters, male and female. The letter format of the whole book makes it very slow with a lack of any real action. And yet it is still fascinating and engaging.
It is also interesting to know that Jane Austen was inspired and influenced by the writer. This book has a similar feel to hers but without the humour and wit of Jan Austen's stories.
Best of all is the narration - perfect choices in well-loved actors.