Thursday, June 21, 2012


book cover
Original Publication Date: 1900

Genre: comedy

Topics: travel, society, comedy of manners


Penelope is one of three American women living in London. Although they're of different backgrounds and ages, they all share one talent: social faux pas among the British!

Penelope's English Experiences is a collection of very short (think newspaper column-length), humorous essays about the travails of living in England for an American woman. The essays center around things like trying to understand British currency, British humor, and how intimidating English servants are. Kate Douglas Wiggin (of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm fame--which I didn't know until I googled her) pokes gentle fun not so much at the British but at Americans traveling abroad and how they desperately want to be liked by everyone, including the servants.

Mind, when I say "humorous" I don't mean these stories are laugh-out-loud funny. They did make me chortle once or twice (there's a comment Penelope makes about Americans procrastinating that struck me as particularly clever... no idea why, of course ;), but mostly the stories are just cute, and some are pretty obscure.

I suppose you could call Penelope's Experiences Abroad a proto-chick lit novel. It's all about her adventures as a single woman living in London, and is very episodic. Unfortunately I've never been a big fan of chick-lit, and since there wasn't any narrative to speak of, it was easy to get bored during the more obscure columns. Honestly, the only saving grace is that the stories are so short.

I would say Penelope's English Experiences, as unoffensive as it is, is skippable--unless you have a particular interest in turn-of-the-century women living in London, in which case you'll probably get all the jokes and find this book pretty interesting.

Find Penelope's English Experiences at Librivox|Project Gutenberg