Returning to the Phonics Challenge:
E for education — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is involved with education, e.g. teacher, principal, school counselor, etc.
For this challenge prompt, I decided to read Julia Whelan’s My Oxford Year, published in 2018.
What’s interesting about this book is that it’s based on a screenplay, which was inspired by Erich Segal’s Love Story which was also based on a screenplay. Furthermore, the author is an actress who had a role in the TV show, Once and Again, as a teen. Since then, she’s been both writing and acting, including deciding to adapt a screenplay into a novel that has some basis in her own life as an American who studied at Oxford as well as someone who had to deal with illness and loss.
That being said, don’t necessarily judge this book by its inspiration.
The first half of My Oxford Year was actually a fun and charming read about twenty-four year old American, Eleanor Durran, who wins a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. Back in the States, she’s involved in politics and education policy. She had successfully managed a few local campaigns and is being courted to work with a female Senator who is running for president, allegedly for her education policy chops, but more so for her political advising skills. Eleanor or Ella decides to put that all on semi-hold to study 19th century poetry at Oxford. Upon arrival, she almost immediately, *literally* runs into a handsome, twenty-nine year old Brit named Jamie Davenport. Even though very attractive, his semi-sober state and careless attitude towards slamming into her in a fish and chips shop, causing all kinds of condiments to end up all over her, puts a sour taste in Ella’s mouth. However, later, she learns that Jamie Davenport will actually be the instructor for one of her classes, causing her to rethink her initial impression of him as a brainless, high class prat.
As Ella begins to make friends with her colorful college mates, she learns that her academic work does not impress Jamie. Not used to such judgments about her work, Ella confronts Jamie and before long, this leads to different sparks and a discreet affair. Just as Ella starts to question the depths of her feelings and how hard it will be to say goodbye and return to her political work in the States, Jamie abruptly puts the breaks on their relationship. But why?! Ella and her bruised heart stews over this question, until she finally learns the answer. It seems Jamie has been hiding something about his health — one that will challenge their relationship and Ella’s plans for her future.
As I mentioned above, My Oxford Year starts out as one thing — a charming, humorous, and literate — each chapter begins with a stanza of poetry — look at an unexpected love affair. But, in the second half, it takes a decidedly emotional and serious turn. Frankly, I didn’t know what hit me and I got a little mad, which I suppose is just how our heroine, Ella, felt. From that point on, the story is about family, about choices, and about love and loss. I must admit to shedding tears at a number of points after that and I honestly didn’t know up until the last pages how this would end. I won’t give it away but I will say I am glad I read the book. I also have to say that the author did a wonderful job of describing life at Oxford, and creating supporting characters with both depth and color. I found myself growing attached to many of them just as Ella does. I’d give this book an “A” for content and a “K” for Kleenex.
The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 11 down, 8 to go (A, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, S …)
The Phonics Challenge – 3 down, 16 to go