Trigger/Content Warnings: Death, grief, terminal illness.
Official Blurb: Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.
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.
My Take: 5/5 Stars
“He always said that waiting for me to learn how to talk was like waiting for his long-lost friend to arrive.” ~ Julia Whelan
I have a rule about my star system I haven’t had the opportunity to explain, because in the time I’ve been doing my five-star only reviews it hasn’t happened. The rule goes like this: if a book makes me cry (for the right reason), it is automatically five starred. MY OXFORD YEAR, a debut novel by Julia Whelan accomplished that. With the quote above, actually.
To be honest, I was surprised when I found myself entering this book on this blog. I expected it to be good, because (disclaimer) I know Julia, and I’d heard about the book before it was published, but I didn’t know it was going to make me write my first automatic five-star review. I mean… it’s contemporary new adult, which I read, well, none of, honestly. And it deals with grief which is a subject that usually turns me off. You see, I automatically five-star review a book that makes me cry not because I don’t cry (I do, ask anyone) but because books don’t usually make me cry. Neither do movies or TV shows. I compartmentalize well. I’m very good at separating reality from fiction. So if fiction manages to make me cry, it’s doing something very right.
My Oxford Year did grief right. It was quiet; it didn’t slam you in the face; it wasn’t big and swooping and too dramatic to be real. It was subtle, understated, but deeply moving. I found myself saying, “Yes, that’s exactly what that feels like, but I never had words quite like these.” It also made me think. While listening to the book (because Julia as I’ve mentioned, is a fantastic narrator and she of course narrated her own book), I found myself pondering over choice and what the difference might be between the path we always thought we were meant for and the path that finds us.
All in all, I found My Oxford Year to be a surprising delight. It was a soft read, not overbearing. The kind of book (or audiobook, you should listen to the audiobook), you want to curl up on the couch with and get lost in. It’s the kind of book that keeps even the best skeptics from waking from the dream.
Question: What is the last book that surprised you?