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.
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:
- July 1: Start reading
- July 4: Intro post
- July 11: Book I
- July 18: Book II
- July 25: Book III
- August 1: Book IV
- August 8: Book V
- August 15: Book VI
- August 22: Book VII
- August 29: Book VIII
- September 5: Book IX
- September 12: Book X
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.
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
- My mom, who also goes by Mary and has the best tweets.
- CJ of ebookclassics who I will see in person during the read-along. I think we should go hat shopping in Cecilia’s honour.
- Emma of The Paperback Princess
- My sister Cait who is back at it again with her third read-along
- Vikzwrites of Weird Marginalia
- 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?)
- Lindy of Lindy Reads, best book club leader ever
- Sarah-Jane of Mercurial Vicissitudes
- Melanie Kerr, author of Follies Past and Mary Green
- Netta Johnston of Stonehouse Publishing, our resident Cecilia expert, meaning she’s actually read it before