Publication date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: Publisher for an honest review
American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day. When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret. Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.
The whole premise of My Oxford Year - from the title itself to the dream-come-true aspect of spending a year at Oxford able to study whatever your heart desires - appealed to me very much.
I loved that even though Ella is an accomplished policy wonk on the rise in the American political scene, she is still an awkward, star-struck American in England and trying desperately not to look too much like what she is. I think most of us can relate.
I really enjoyed the smaller characters in the book. There is Hugh, the first person Ella meets at Oxford - he is so British, quiet, with understated humor - I really liked him. Charlie and Maggie are two of Ella's classmates and friends. They are really funny and have lots of crazy, adorable adventures with Ella. And then there is poor Tom - he is socially awkward and pretty clueless, but a fun addition to the group.
Ella almost gets run over by Jamie Davenport and he ends up being the instructor for her class - of course. At first, I wasn't overly thrilled by this plot point - it just seem too cliche -- but it grew on me as the characters grew and their relationship was developed. There were some pretty standard things in the story line, but there were quite a few things that made the story pretty unique and it grew on me as I advanced through the novel. I appreciated that none of the characters are perfect, they all have flaws, but they grow and learn from experience. As a reader, I had to drop preconceived ideas about characters pretty quickly because Whelan likes to play with cliches and kind of turn them around on you. I like that.
Another plus for me was the number of literature jokes, and a fair amount of literary analysis and criticism spread throughout the novel. I mean, you pretty much have to include some literary references if your main character is reading literature at Oxford, right?
There were a few surprises in the novel - I anticipated a big one, but then Whelan turned it around on me and took it in a direction that I hadn't seen coming. I do like a surprise in my reading. I really enjoyed My Oxford Year and will definitely be recommending it to all my friends.
About the author:
Julia Whelan is a screenwriter, lifelong actor, and award-winning audiobook narrator. She graduated with a degree in English and creative writing from Middlebury College and Oxford University. While she was in England, her flirtation with tea blossomed into a full-blown love affair, culminating in her eventual certification as a tea master.
Connect with Julia
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