In the tradition of Fanny Burney's "Evelina" and Elizabeth Inchbald's "A Simple Story", but with perhaps more serious intent, Maria Edgeworth's "Belinda" is a coming-of-age tale about a naive young girl thrust into the sophisticated world of late eighteenth-century London. Guided by Lady Delacour, the eponyous heroine must navigate her way through ...
In the tradition of Fanny Burney's "Evelina" and Elizabeth Inchbald's "A Simple Story", but with perhaps more serious intent, Maria Edgeworth's "Belinda" is a coming-of-age tale about a naive young girl thrust into the sophisticated world of late eighteenth-century London. Guided by Lady Delacour, the eponyous heroine must navigate her way through the maze that leads to love and marriage. Interwoven with this narrative is a sub-plot that exposes the hypocrisy of the fashionable world, as Belinda discovers Lady Delacour is estranged from both her husband and her daughter, and believes herself to be suffering from cancer, although she is unable to confide in anyone. A complex story of many strands, it is an extremely significant novel both in terms of the development of narrative fiction and the portrayal of women.
A delightful story of a beautiful and refreshingly rational and intelligent young lady (wouldn't mind a few more of those!) who learns from the mistakes of those around her, Belinda had me burning the midnight oil from beginning to end. There are characters aplenty - a scheming and mercenary aunt, a captivating, middle-aged bon vivant with a sad secret and a crumbling marriage, servants faithful and faithless, a few harpies, and not one but two handsome suitors - and smack in the middle of it all, Belinda - smart, well-read, and very aware of the craziness around her. This is a very briskly-paced, very funny novel, with lots of talk, certainly, but plenty of action at every turn. Clarence Hervey must be one of the most unusual and intriguing heroes I have come across in a novel from this period (could you see Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy dressing up in a hoopskirt to make a point?). I'm sure that there are a lot of very academic things I could say about this novel - its treatment of race relations in an England that had not yet abolished the slave trade, its commentary on women making their own marriage choices - but that's not why I enjoyed it. It's a great story on its own.
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