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Contemporary New Adult Review: Penelope by Rebecca Harrington

Penelope by Rebecca Harrington

borrowed from the library

Synopsis from Goodreads
Prep meets The Marriage Plot in this uproarious debut novel, a send-up of campus life starring one singularly unprepared, socially maladroit, charmingly clueless freshman named Penelope.

When Penelope O'Shaughnessy arrives on the Harvard campus she is amazed: she has never seen such a vast and majestic Au Bon Pain. She has also never met anyone like her fellow freshmen. Everyone is overwhelmed and overworked, striving to get into the right social clubs and frantically pulling all-nighters at the library - and classes haven't even begun.

Penelope's roommates aren't exactly the soul mates she had hoped for (Emma is a social climber intent on punching The Pudding, while Lan is a misanthrope who paints her room black). Meanwhile, her 'Images of Shakespeare' class seems mostly to involve angry discussions over whether or not the Bard was overweight; the dorm room 'pre-game' sessions never seem to lead to a real game; and the aristocratic upperclassman she has admired from afar never seems to be eating in the freshman dining hall, where she might woo him alongside the make-your-own waffle bar. When Penelope finds herself roped into a production of Camus' Caligula, she begins to worry that her entire college experience is beginning to resemble an absurdist play.

A laugh-out-loud depiction of college life, PENELOPE announces the arrival of a deliriously funny new writer.

Amazon  US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository US/UK | Fishpond


* * *
How can a book make you sad and feel so wonderful at the same time? 

First of all, disregard the synopsis. It gives you a wrong impression of what to expect. Penelope is funny, sure, but it's also perversely non-conformist. I've looked at other people's ratings on Goodreads, and you're either love it or hate it, because people don't get it in the same way they don't get Penelope herself in the book.

Penelope is a freshman at Harvard and she is considered nerdy and weird, this one quiet, agreeable and entirely forgettable girl. You know why? She is an odd duck in love with Hercule Poirot and has a very subtle sense of humour that nobody seems to get. Nobody seems to hear what she's saying to them either, not even her mother.

Everyone around her is entirely self-absorbed and full of crap. They talk about their careers, being edgy and modern, they are empty over-achievers and unfortunately Penelope can't make sense of the life happening around her. She tries to go with the flow and gravitates towards this group and the other, but nothing helps her to feel as someone who belongs. The sense of loneliness in the sea of people and pointlessness of it all is incredible.

Then she meets this fascinating European rich boy, Gustav, mad as a hatter and with a peculiar sense of humour. She has it in her head that if only they had some sort of relationship she can go on this great adventure, because she honestly doesn't have any certainty or goals in her life unlike her fellow freshmen.

Gustav... I can't even get angry with him, because he is rich, spoiled and utterly scatterbrained. He is very charming when he is with Penelope and forgets her when she is out of his line of sight. Crazy, flitting and delightfully bizarre. However, the relationship or shall I say non-relationship/make out sessions with him force Penelope little by little out of her shell, and by the end of the book the whole situation and how she deals with it gives her personality better definition.

I wish Rebecca Harrington wrote more books because I'm dying to know what will become of Penelope, and I just dearly loved the author's style of writing, subtle, ironic, out of the box and melancholy.

Very much recommended.

* * *
Очень ироничная и в то же время грустная дебютная книжка вышла у Ребекки Харрингтон. Я понимаю почему так разнятся её оценки на Гудридс, потому как Пенелопу можно либо понять и ей посочувствовать, либо совершенно не принять в зависимости от того, насколько люди погрязли в быту и насколько они не хотят принять альтернативный взгляд на жизнь.

Пенелопа - первокурсница в Гарварде. Я понятия не имею, как она туда попала (в книге это не объясняется), но на фоне постоянно паникующих, сосредоточенных на самих себе, озабоченных будущими карьерами сокурсников она смотрится мягко говоря странно.

Она и окружающие её люди как-будто на двух различных волнах радиостанций. То, что она говорит, её тонкое чувство юмора перед лицом абсурда, что заставляло меня постоянно хихикать, остаются не услышаны и не замечены.

Возможно только странный и очаровательный европеец, богатый и испорченный мальчик, Густав, понимает и одобряет шутки Пенелопы. Только вот, Густав до невозможности рассеян и экцентричен, и странные отношения с ним приносят Пенелопе больше вреда, чем пользы.

На Густава сердиться было очень сложно, так как у него в голове были сплошные тараканы. Он был очарователен и привлекателен, когда они с Пенелопой оказывались наедине и в то же время забывал о ней, как только она исчезала из его поля зрения. 

Однако мне кажется, что Густав сыграл важную роль, подтолкнув Пенелопу к началу изменений в самой себе и в её восприятии окружающих.

В целом, Пенелопе сложно дать какое-то определение как книге и в то же время меня она совершенно очаровала своим авторским стилем и взглядом на жизнь. Мисс Харрингтон, пишите дальше, я буду читать всё, что вы напишите!

Очень рекомендую.


Melliane said...

Oh I love the cover! I didn't know this book but thanks for the discovery it sounds like an intense read.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) said...

I don't read that much contemporary, but from what I've noticed, you don't either, so your high rating and your enthusiastic words really tell me all I need to know about this book.
I'm adding it to my tbr. Books that aren't for everybody usually end up being exactly my thing.
Great review.

kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

Dehlia, I'll be very curious to know if you like it or not ;)

Maja, I'll be looking forward to your reading this book. I've noticed that you are reading very few contemporaries, so perhaps our tastes will be similar in this one ;)

C.J. said...

Okay, so this girl reminds me of me in high school and I MUST read this. I've never heard of it at all before, so I'm SO glad you featured it. I adore subtle, ironic, and off-the-wall, so this sounds perfect.


Blodeuedd said...

Awwww I wanna read it now too

Unknown said...

Adding it to my pile. It's the quirky weirdness of all characters that beckons me. Thanks for the heads up, K. :)

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...

Wonderful review and I am adding it to my wishlist, I love the odd duck and the author's writing style sounds wonderful, thanks for sharing it!

Petra said...

This sounds amazing! Penelope sounds like someone I would enjoy and even relate to in some ways. :)
This goes straight to my TBR list! :)

kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

C.J., I hope you try it and enjoy it! ;)

Blodeuedd, it was very cute!

Joy, I can't wait to see if you like it or not *wink*

Kimba, odd duck is definitely what it is ;) Hope you enjoy it!

Petra, that's what I thought. She was just so quirky!

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