Skip to main content

Retro Friday Review: Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted here at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! I include roundups from participating bloggers in my weekly post.
It's been around five years since I first ran across Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman. And, honestly, when I think about it, I'm fairly certain I got this recommendation from Stephenie Meyer's website way back in the day. I believe she had it on her list of recommended reads and I picked it up based on that and the fact that it had a Jane Austen angle. It seems like there are so many of those these days, but at the time I hadn't read many. I'm very glad I did pick it up, as this is a perfectly delightful, perfectly quick read that entertains and leaves a grin on your face. I still don't see it around very much, but I'm happy to see Ms. Shulman has a new book that came out last year. Definitely need to go check that one out since I read this one in a single sitting. As far as the covers go, what do you think? I'm always interested to see where they go when they change it between hardback and paperback releases. I think it's interesting the slight shift they took on the paperback, lightening the background and adding the Austen figures to highlight that aspect of the story. Probably a good idea, but I do find myself sort of preferring the bright, simple colorblock of the hardback. 


This sweet, smart little novel follows 15-year-old Julia Lefkowitz who loves Jane Austen. Enter her best friend Ashleigh the Enthusiast. 
"There is little more likely to exasperate a person of sense than finding herself tied by affection and habit to an Enthusiast."
Ashleigh moves from one obsession to another like they're going out of style. But she always, always devotes her whole self, heart and soul, to whatever the obsession of the day is. And most recently, rather unexpectedly, Ashleigh has decided to follow her less enthusiastic friend Julie's lead and adopt Austen as her latest obsession. Specifically Pride and Prejudice. In short order, she's talking like Elizabeth Bennet, dressing like Elizabeth Bennet, and dragging poor Julia off to crash an all boys school cotillion in search of a Darcy and a Bingley apiece. Suitable young men are found (naturally), the charming Ned and Parr, but which one is which and just who is actually in love with who? 


Delightful and quirky, full of sly Austen references, and even a play within a play, Enthusiasm is easy to fall for. In fact, I stayed up late in the closet reading this one after a particularly long and trying day. This was back when I lived in a room with a walk-in closet. Don't you love those for reading in late at night, or is that just me? I remember I had one as well when I was around 14 years old and, let me tell you, I spent many a night cozied up in that space, surrounded by hemlines, shoes, and a good book. In this case, I really liked these two girls. The reserved one and the vivacious one, together they are the real deal when it comes to being friends. So much so that when misunderstandings arise, they stick it out, even if it means (as it does here) one of them swallowing a rather hefty helping of disappointment for much of the book. But I loved their friendship and I loved the swoony romance that develops between Julie and one of the young lads (not telling which one). Complete with first kisses, climbing in and out of windows, and sonnets pinned to trees. Be still my heart. Genuine and sweet, Enthusiasm has stayed on my shelf over the years, for whenever I need a little modern-day Austen in my life. 


Linkage
The Hiding Spot Review
Janicu's Book Blog Review
Tempting Persephone Review


Retro Friday Roundup
Good Books & Good Wine reviews The Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey
One Librarian's Book Reviews reviews These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner
.

Comments

  1. This really does sound quick and cute, definitely worth the small time commitment!

    I think I like the PB cover with the Austen figures in the background better just because, with no prior knowledge of the book, made me want to read it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I really loved this book as well as Shulman's other book The Grimm Legacy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think I picked it up based off of Stephenie Meyer's rec too! I'm not sorry I did, either, cause it's a favorite of mine. So much fun.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I always like the idea of these kinds of books, but I always find myself somewhat disappointed...however, I will check this one out from the library. But Jane Austen!!! <3 I just started Persuasion for the first time last night! I wasn't overly fond of the movie, but apparently it's a great Austen favorite, so we'll see.

    P.S. about Ella Enchanted: the movie is nothing like the book. they took the character's names and the concept of being cursed with obedience and made their own story. As such, I was mortified that they took something as wonderful as the book and changed it into a comedy that made fun of fairy tales. So I strongly dislike the movie. However, my friends who haven't read the book love it. I suppose its funny by itself, but when I compare it with the book, I cringe. The prince is handsome though.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous11:34 PM

    I like the premise of this book! And that cover is really cute!

    ---Sharry

    ReplyDelete
  6. how have I never heard of this? I love Austen!

    ReplyDelete
  7. My girlfriend's favorite, she really appreciated it as a gift for our anniversary.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I like the friend stealing your enthusiasm--very girl. But unfortunately I have never been able to get through a single Jane Austen book or even when zombies were added (and that's saying something from me). So I would probably miss all the real art to the book.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Allison, see, it definitely does its job. That's good.

    Bookworm, oh good! I'm glad to hear the second one is good as well.

    Melissa, lol! That's funny.

    Lizzy, yes, I usually feel the same . . . wariness. But this one is cute. And I will confess I envy you getting to read PERSUASION for the first time. That is one of my favorite reading memories. As for ELLA, I understand. Will not be watching it. And I will bump the book up in the TBR thanks to you.

    Sharry, yeah, I like it, too.

    Diana, hee. It really did go under the radar, I think. And it's very cute.

    Ondrej, well done. :)

    Bets, well to each her own, that's for sure. Although this one is light enough on the Austen that you might be able to enjoy it anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Confession time. I was in a bookstore a couple months ago and read the last chapter of the book. I definitely will have to read the rest of it now. :)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

You Might Also Like

Review | If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

It's been years since I picked up a Mhairi McFarlane novel, and I'm not really sure why that is. I liked It's Not Me, It's Youwell enough (it's obvious she's quite a witty writer), but something about the execution felt off and I think I let that keep me from diving deeper into her backlist. Then came an offer to review her upcoming title If I Never Met You, and something about this one seemed to call out to me. As though it was time. As though Laurie and Jamie might be the ones. Spoiler alert: It was and they were. It was the perfect read for a couple of dreary, grey January days. While not perhaps as bubbly as I've Got Your Number, I would definitely recommend it to readers who enjoyed that novel. They share a business setting, two individuals who are more than they know themselves to be, and a wonderfully slow burn romance. Readers who love Sarra Manning and Beth O'Leary's The Flatshareshould also take note.
Comedy was tragedy plus time, but the…

Review | The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion, Vols. 1 & 2 by Beth Brower

I feel a bit giddy finally talking to you all about this series. If you'll remember, I fell madly in love with The Q when it came out a few years ago. Now, Beth Brower is writing The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion—a series of novellas set in London in 1883. Each volume is an excerpt from the incorrigible Emma's journals, and the first two volumes are already available with the third on the way soon. I think they'd make rather perfect pandemic reading. Humorous and charming down to their bones, they're just what the doctor ordered to lift your spirits in this uncertain time that just proves to be too much some days. If you're experiencing one of those days, I suggest giving Volume 1a go (it's only 99 cents on Kindle, $4.99 for a trade paperback copy). It will surprise exactly none of you that I own print and digital editions of both volumes. 
Miss Emma M. Lion has waited long enough. Come hell or high water (and really, given her track record, both are likel…

Review | The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

All it took was hearing the basic bones of the premise of Beth O'Leary's debut novel The Flatsharefor me to determine I would absolutely be reading it as soon as I possibly could. I was so delighted to be granted access to an advanced reading copy by Flatiron Books. Even better, it became apparent from the moment I read the first few lines that this reading experience would take place in one headlong rush. No significant breaks allowed, let alone required. The Flatshare was published first in the UK and then slightly later here in the U.S. I dithered over which cover to buy as both have much to recommend them, but I finally decided on the U.S. cover (pictured here). I just love the two of them standing on either side of the same door, the tiny heart between the title and author name.

Tiffy is in a massive, massive bind. Out on her ear after breaking up with her exceptionally controlling boyfriend, she needs an inexpensive place to live and she needs it yesterday. Despite her …