Saturday, August 28, 2010
Book Review: Enthusiasm
Enthusiasm (2006) by Polly Shulman
Jane Austen never had friends like this...
"There is little more likely to exasperate a person of sense than finding herself tied by affection and habit to an Enthusiast." Julie knows from bitter experience. Her best friend, Ashleigh, veers wildly from one obsession to the next, dragging Julie along on her crazy schemes. Ashleigh's current fancy is also Julie's own passion: Jane Austen's great love story Pride and Prejudice. Dressed in a vintage frock and dragging her feet, Julie finds herself sneaking into a dance at an all-boys' prep school with Ashleigh, in search of heroes. Unfortunately, they both fall for the same one: the handsome and gallant Grandison Parr. Will Julie have to choose between loyalty and love? Or will Ashleigh's embarrassing antics drive him away before Julie gets a chance?
Before the Review: There's this little thrift store that I frequent, largely because they almost always have an excellent selection of very gently used YA books. I don't know who's donating them, but I can frequently find recent releases and/or widely acclaimed YA novels on their shelves. I don't even have to look hard. For example, they had both Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty and M.T. Anderson's The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. Not that I've read them yet, or anything, but it's like shopping at Barnes and Noble. If Barnes and Noble charged a dollar. So that's where I got this book. Do you have any magical second-hand shops in your life, or are their shelves full of old Highlights magazines and Western romances from the 80s? Which, actually, is magical in its own way.
Review: Okay, so I'll be honest: I didn't have high expectations for this book going in to it. But I was looking for a light, fast read and you can probably tell from looking that it fits the bill. But. Some of the reviews suggested that "Enthusiasm has the makings of an instant classic." It's not true. (I'm looking at you, Time magazine. You are lying liars.) I mean, sure, it was light and I guess it could have been fast, but usually I can destroy 198 pages in an hour and this thing took me like a week. It's like watching a straight-to-DVD movie: there isn't a whole lot to it but it draaaaaaags. And I think the reason was this: the characters were kind of flat, the writing was average, and the crises arose from miscommunications that, you know, usually make for a comedy of errors but instead just had me sighing.
However, I did find some of the bonus material at the back interesting. For instance, the title is Enthusiasm because Jane Austen's niece wrote a novel with that title. Also, Grandison Parr is named after one of Austen's favorite literary characters. Yay for fun facts!
Conclusion: Reading over this, my review sounds disdainful and nasty when it's not really deserved; Enthusiasm wasn't bad by any means, it just wasn't exactly good. I give it 3/5. It fulfills everything it set out to do: it's breezy, entertaining, and caters to Austen fans and has boys with good manners and fencing skills.