Penelope is one of those novels that’s more than entertaining enough to take to the beach but can still dazzle you with its wit and razor-sharp intelligence. In person, Rebecca Harrington, the 26-year-old author who wrote Penelope, conveys a similar mix of bubbliness and literary geekiness: Our conversation over craft beers and truffle fries covered everything from Kristen Stewart’s messy personal life to contemporary adaptions of classical Greek theater.
Harrington doesn’t appear to have much in common with her titular character. In the novel, Penelope O’Shaunessy arrives at Harvard completely blindsided by the pretentiousness and bizarre social behaviors of her classmates. Like a cypher, she shows up to every student event she’s invited to, quietly (and hilariously) observing the goings-on — a ludicrous student production of Caligula, endless pre-gaming sessions for parties that never happen, a literary magazine meeting that will have you laughing out loud — while engaging her surroundings with mostly one-word responses like, “Yeah” and “Sure.” “She thinks that if she’s agreeable, she’ll somehow be seamlessly accepted into some kind of group,” says Harrington of her deadpan, painfully awkward heroine. “But really, nobody seems to care.” READ FULL STORY