- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (April 24, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062740644
- ISBN-13: 978-0062740649
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 182 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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My Oxford Year: A Novel Paperback – April 24, 2018
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"The Farmer's Son" by John Connell
"A fascinating portrait of a single sensibility, a born noticer, someone on whom nothing is lost, observing birth and death, the landscape, and his own heritage." ―Colm Tóibín, author of "Brooklyn" Learn more
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“With My Oxford Year, Julia Whelan has crafted a breathtakingly perfect picture of Oxford…a read bursting with warmth, mirth, and heart. A powerfully heartbreaking and life-affirming tribute to love and to choice – to choosing love and an open-hearted approach to the world.” (Entertainment Weekly, “A” review)
“My Oxford Year is a pure delight with unpredictable depths. Julia Whelan has crafted a story that is as fun and charming as it is powerful and wise. Ella Durran is a breath of fresh air and her story will stay with you long after you’re done.” (Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo)
“...Julia Whelan’s My Oxford Year, which unfolds in charming Oxfordshire and reads even better when read through a pair of thick-rimmed glasses.” (Vogue.com)
“Full of humor and romance, My Oxford Year has it all—I loved it!” (Jill Shalvis, New York Times bestselling author)
“I laughed, I definitely cried, and I learned about literature and poetry in a way that made me feel a bit smarter today.” (Heather Cocks, author of The Royal We)
“My Oxford Year is a funny, tender, heart-breaking coming-of-age adventure.”
(Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author)
“Whelan has created a beautiful, romantic story that focuses on big ideas—love, death, poetry, and what really matters in the end.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“[An] enjoyable debut…fans of One Day and Me Before You will be charmed by this warm story and Ella and Jamie’s romance.” (Publishers Weekly)
“My Oxford Year is an achingly beautiful debut.” (Robinne Lee, author of The Idea of You)
“Vivid, smart, and utterly charming, My Oxford Year is a heartfelt journey.” (Allie Larkin, author of Why Can’t I Be You)
From the Back Cover
American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: study at Oxford. At twenty-four, 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, and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.
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.
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I'd heard the author on a podcast (Wicked Wallflowers Club) and the entire time she was speaking thought she sounded remarkably pompous, talking about how she was a Rhodes finalist (but you weren't selected so ... sounds embarrassing to hear people, years after the fact, talk about how close they came to something), how she'd attended Oxford through her American uni and was a "real Oxonian," not "granted privileges" like actual Rhodes scholars (so then why would she apply for the scholarship if she'd already an "authentic" experience?), how she is an important actress and is "really good friends" with X, Y, Z. I'm really good friends with a woman named Jessica who oversees providing healthy, fulfilling meals to the hungry in our county, so what's your point? And the author is an important actress who pays her bills by narrating books -- the way she kept stressing "actress" felt as if she were denigrating the profession which puts a roof over her head.
So as I wrote, totally my fault for purchasing (and reading) the book anyway, but the hosts of the podcast were keen on it, plus the author does really like tea (me too), and I liked the way they all (hosts and author) said it's not a romance book, it's a woman's book. Now I love romance and I love chick-lit and I love women's fiction (which empowers women, kinda following the Bechdel Test, if you will).
"My Oxford Year" is a flat-out romance. There is ZERO female empowerment to be found in this story.
And that's fine, but this is not a woman's book. This is not a book where, in the opening scene, our protagonist, Ella, is offered a job advising a widowed candidate on education in the presidential primary and where we actually see Ella doing *any* work, providing *any* knowledge about American education (except that the Arts are important -- yep, got it). If Ella loves English lit so much, why do we only know about the one paper she writes, and that's in her first week of classes? We learn nothing else about her true life at and in Oxford. Sure, we learn she makes three friends, but there is no deep dive into those friendships, at all.
Instead it's a romance with one of her teachers, Jamie, where they agree to a purely sexual relationship, not an intimate relationship. Granted, they do ultimately develop an emotional connection and it turns out ***SPOILER*** that he is terminally ill, as was his brother (who earlier succumbed to same disease), and Ella decides to live with Jamie while he's undergoing and dealing with the after effects of treatment. So we know about Jamie's living on his bathroom floor and puking,***END OF SPOILER*** but not about Ella's, the WOMAN, classes, classwork, work for the US presidential candidate hopeful.
At the very end of the book Ella does decide to do what she wants to do, not what society or academia says one ought to. Listen, that's great and all, but what Ella chooses to do is still in service of her boyfriend, so I'm not sure how much of a woman's book this is. I think in many ways that is truth, that many of us do subjugate our own wishes / needs in service of those around us (spouse, children, parents, boss), but I'm in my 40s, not a Bright Young Thing in my early-20s who was chosen a Rhodes Scholar AND was handpicked to be the Education Adviser to someone running in the presidential primaries. I mean -- that is some young person! Must be incredibly bright, insightful, observant. I'll read a book about her! But that's not Ella. At all.
Would I recommend this book? Not on your life. Is it the worst book I've ever read? Not even close. Is it a keeper? Nope.
There are some interesting characters and of course some romance. A bit of adventure and some plot twists I wasn’t expecting. Which is probably part of why I liked it so much. Most books, especially ones romantically inclined tend to be predictable. And at the end of it all, I think there are some pretty good lessons as well.
This spectacular story helped me travel back in time when I, too,was an English Literature scholar in university studying the sensational works of literary giants such as Byron, Shelley, Tennyson, Shakespeare, Wild, Frost and so forth... gifting me nostalgic memories. This novel not only gave me the "full Oxford" experience through its narrative but touched me deep in my heart and soul... playing on all my heart strings. I was highly entertained yet deeply moved by Ella and Jamie's romance and his terminal illness. A heart-breaking story about life and how this once-in-a-lifetime unexpected experience became the experience of a lifetime. 5+++ Bloody Sensational Stars for "My Oxford Year"... which teaches us not to THINK but to FEEL!