We read the book, then watched the Netflix movie, and spent the entire movie shouting out, "THAT didn't happen in the book," or "THIS is so not in the book," and "WHERE did that come from? Enola would never do that!"
First of all, the Enola in the book is only 12, not 16, so the emotional impact of her mother leaving her is considerably more understandable. In the movie, it was kinda like, "Uh, and? Woe is you, you have to go to school. You're old enough to take care of yourself."
Whereas in the book, it's a significant emotional abandonment. And the Enola in the book isn't surreptitiously falling in love with a boy!
But I digress with the spoiled popcorn.
Here's the book review: The book starts in August of 1888 with the specter of a woman dressed in black from head to toe, alone, wandering the worst, poorest streets of London, looking for a loved one in the bleak, miserable nooks and crannies, unsure whether she'll survive the night and where she'll sleep.
Hold this image, reader, in your mind as you read. It's what the story is barreling toward, from Chapter The First. Although you start with Enola at Ferndell Park, wondering why her mother named her that, and introducing you to the cypher that is her name (backward spelling of alone), it quickly progresses to her opening her birthday present without her mother and soon realizing her mother is missing and sending a telegraph to her brothers Mycroft and Sherlock asking them to come home.
Enola pedals to the station, where they're all shocked to learn the estate has no carriage. Indeed, they quickly surmise their mother has been bilking the estate of money by faking the employ of various servants, gardeners, drivers, tutors and governess for Enola. Ironically, in the same breath, Holmes is dismissive of the "female intellect," although that same "female" managed to pull the wool over his and his brother's eyes for a dozen years.
Holmes is downright offensive about it, calling their mother "odd," "senile," with the "innate untidiness of a woman's mind" and one who is "in her dotage" (for those of you who don't recognize this word, it means old, elderly, and mentally failing). Which, although offensive to modern sensibilities, is as it should be, character-wise, for Holmes.
Enola makes a list of questions to be answered about her mother's disappearance, mostly questioning why she was dressed so oddly (her undergarment "enhancers" had been emptied of their "enhancing" materials and left out for Enola to find), where she went, how, and without baggage. The dog leads Holmes to Enola's hiding spot, and he asks to see her list.
It is at this point Enola gets her brother's unspoken, tacit "approval," in that he tells her she's "covered all the salient points." Investigative points, he means. But unlike Enola, who's had some introduction to the ways of women in the 1880s, he fails to understand the clues he's looking at, although Enola over the next few weeks figures them out. She decodes her mother's ciphers, finds the money (or what her mother didn't take), and never gets anywhere near the girls' finishing school.
She takes a cue from her mother and leaves Ferndell Park on her own. Her attention is almost immediately hijacked by the Marquess' case at the train station. She overhears that the Viscount Tewksbury has been snatched from Basilwether Hall, and Holmes has refused to come investigate.
Instead of heading right away to London, she detours and heads to the Tewksbury estate, where she meets a pivotal character NOT in the movie: Madame Laelia, a Spiritualist Medium, and ... well, I won't ruin it.
Because now the game is afoot, and nothing is as it seems and wasn't in the movie. At all. So read on and enjoy!