Cecilia Read-Along: Summer Reading for People Who Don’t Like “Summer Reading”

Cecilia Readalong Button edit

What do you look for in a summer read?

  • Almost 1000 pages?
  • Obscure 18th century author?
  • Difficult to find in print?

You are in the right place, friend. It’s the #SummerofCecilia and over the next ten weeks or so, we’re going to polish off this old-school English classic: Cecilia by Frances Burney.


Frances Burney was a totally important author who wrote four novels and a ton of letters and diaries, was wildly successful in her day, and then was ignored by critics for decades, but she’s back, baby. Thanks to feminist scholars and critics, including BookTube’s own RonLit, and the ladies of Hidden Histories podcast, she and her pre-Austen contemporaries are back in the public conscious.

Virginia Woolf also called her the mother of English fiction. NBD.

Why Cecilia?

I’ve been advised by several smart people to start with Evelina, a shorter and more accessible work, but damn it, sometimes you feel like reading a thousand page novel that wasn’t written by some bro-ish literary darling *cough City on Fire cough*

And the premise is fascinating! Cecilia is an heiress, but there’s a catch: any man she marries must take her name if he is to get access to her cash. Pretty out there for 1782.

Oh yeah, and a quote from Cecilia inspired the title of another book you might have heard of…

The whole of this unfortunate business,” said Dr. Lyster, “has been the result of pride and prejudice. … If to pride and prejudice you owe your miseries, so wonderfully is good and evil balanced, that to pride and prejudice you will also owe their termination.

What do I have to do?

Cecilia is made up of ten “books”, each of which is just under one hundred pages. I figure we read a book a week for the next ten weeks, which will take us through the summer, and then some.

If you’ve done my previous read-alongs, you know I’m pretty low key. This is an approximate schedule, and I’ll aim to post on Mondays, but you can read and post whenever you like, or just comment on my posts, or just snapchat with me, whatever. I might do a little Booktube too. You can bookmark this post and I’ll link it all up:

Usually this is where I bribe you

The nice thing about reading-along (read-alonging?) Dead White Dude classics is that there are ready-made prizes galore at Out of Print Tees. Burney swag? Not so much. So let me think on that a little. But suffice to say, anyone who even tries to participate in this is a summer-reading rock star in my books.



This is the best I could find

Okay, where do I start

Now that you’re super excited about reading Cecilia, I have some bad news: it is not easy to get a physical copy of this book. My local library has nothing at all for Burney but an old biography, and it’s not on the shelves in any of the Chapters in town. I have the Oxford World Classics edition, which I got from The Book Depository, but not without a lengthy email exchange with customer service and almost two months of waiting. So I suggest you either order online (from somewhere reliable) or grab the ebook. I got a Harper Collins edition on my Kobo for 99 cents, and it works fine so far.

#SquadGoals: Here’s who’s signed up so far. Leave me a comment and join us!

If order of when they joined, this is #SummerofCecilia squad. If you’re in this list and want me to link to something else (or not) let me know

  1. My mom, who also goes by Mary and has the best tweets.
  2. Rainey
  3. CJ of ebookclassics who I will see in person during the read-along. I think we should go hat shopping in Cecilia’s honour.
  4. Emma of The Paperback Princess
  5. Kristine
  6. My sister Cait who is back at it again with her third read-along
  7. Vikzwrites of Weird Marginalia
  8. xkurwamacz
  9. Rick of Read the North (formerly Book-a-Week Project, and Canon Fodder, and Another Book Blog, and the original Book-a-Week Project… what’d I miss?)
  10. Lindy of Lindy Reads, best book club leader ever
  11. Sarah-Jane of Mercurial Vicissitudes
  12. Melanie Kerr, author of Follies Past and Mary Green
  13. Netta Johnston of Stonehouse Publishing, our resident Cecilia expert, meaning she’s actually read it before


    • lauratfrey

      Welcome! I’m going off the page count of the print copy I have, which clocks in at 917, but also has a bunch of introductions, appendices, etc. so I’m rounding up to 1K.

    • lauratfrey

      Thanks, friend 🙂 I’m not sure how I’m going to read yet. I might switch back and forth between print and ebook. I’ve barely read any ebooks this year, so maybe now is time to get back into that. Plus I can look up definitions, which may come in handy!

      • ebookclassics

        Definitons are always helpful. If I can’t get it to work, I’ll buy a print copy.

  1. The Paperback Princess

    You know, I’ve actually wanted to read Cecilia for a very long time! You should definitely get to Evelina one of these days – it’s a delight. I want to join this! But I don’t do e-books so I’m going to have to see what can be done about getting my hands on a physical copy. Fingers crossed.

    • lauratfrey

      I will probably get to Evelina next year; a local publisher is reissuing it in Spring. You can order from Chapters, I just wouldn’t recommend the Book Depository. See a comment above for a link to order my edition directly from Oxford University Press, too. And if you start late, just start late. I’m not the readalong police 🙂

  2. Kristine

    I’m definitely in. I adore gigantic books – there is just something so satisfying about a massively long read. I am also horrified that I have never heard of Cecilia before. For shame. Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

    Hopefully I will be able to find a copy in time for July 1!

    • lauratfrey

      Glad you are in! If you start late just go for it… I realize I didn’t give a lot of time. And the schedule is pretty lax, you can totally catch up.

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  4. Naomi

    I do so want to join. But, I think there’s no way unless i read absolutely nothing else all summer, which is not an option since I have so many good books to read! But, as always, I’m happy to follow along. Maybe you will all convince me to order it and read it anyway… eventually….

  5. xkurwamacx

    I started to read this a while back, and liked it, but then got distracted by other books.

    I’m so ready for this! (although I’m bad at blogging, I might just post comments).

    • lauratfrey

      Oooo let’s see some pics of your edition! Dang it, I am on page 480 of a 650 book and trying to finish before July 1…. I seem to have lost the ability to read more than one book at a time.

      • Rick @ Read the North

        I’ll post a photo, definitely. Mine comes in two volumes, which I quite like. Made it expensive, but it seems much less daunting to read two 500+ page books instead of one 1000+ page one.

      • The Paperback Princess

        I’ve been trying to read a 400 page book for a week. I have a long car ride in my future…and about 75 pages left. But I’m so bored. I just want it to be over. Reading it before July 1st seems near impossible. But damn it, I will.

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  7. Lindy

    I downloaded a free copy from Project Gutenberg and read the first chapter of Book 1. Based on that, I’m willing to continue.

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