After much consideration I think I've finally settled on my next 'big' (otherwise known as 'long') read. Camilla by Frances Burney. I've been agonizing over this choice for a while now. I was all set to pick up Samuel Richardson's Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady, but in the end I changed my mind. As hefty books go, that is surely one of the heftiest coming in at over 1,500 pages (though I've read both Alexandre Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo and Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and both have about the same number of pages). Camilla has a mere 913. I like the idea of an epistolary novel, but I don't like the the idea of toting around such a mammoth book.
The idea is that like Edith Hamilton's Mythology, I'll read a section each week and then post on it--to keep me honest and on task as I work my way through the novel. I thought of starting this in January as a long-term project for winter and spring, but I'm excited now that I've made my choice and don't want to wait. So Mondays will likely be my "Camilla" day. The novel is made up of ten volumes and each volume has two books (various chapters within each book). I'm shooting for reading one book a week (the first book in volume one has 49 pages but most are double that length), or one book every two weeks.
And then there will be supplementary reading of course. I've not read anything written earlier than 19th century in a very long time, and I've not read anything by Frances Burney. I wanted something that would be a little more challenging than my normal reading choices, but not so hard that I will feel overwhelmed and get discouraged by the novel. But I've long been intrigued by Frances Burney. She seems like she had a really interesting and remarkable life and Camilla, as a story holds great appeal for me. The story deals with the "matrimonial concerns" of four young people, which of course is never easy, and in this case, "the path of true love is strewn with intrigue, contretemps, and misunderstanding."
"An enormously popular eighteenth-century novel, Camilla is touched at many points by the advancing spirit of romanticism. As in Evelina, Burney weaves into her novel strands of light and dark, comic episodes and gothic shudders, and creates a pattern of social and moral dilemmas which emphasize and illuminate the gap between generations."
Sounds good, don't you think? I should perhaps start with Evelina, but now I have my heart set on Camilla, so I'm just going to take the plunge and start reading over my long weekend. I've brought home from the library The World of Fanny Burney by Evelyn Farr and have ordered Frances Burney's Journals and Letters. If I've not made the progress I'd like in the novel, I will still have something new about Burney to share (I hope) each week. Maybe this will start me out on an entirely new reading path!