My Oxford Year tells the tale of Eleanor (Ella) Durran, a 24-year old woman headed off to Oxford after achieving her dream of receiving the Rhodes Scholarship AND getting the job offer of her dreams working on the campaign of a Presidential candidate (remotely from Oxford no less, how convenient!). This story looks like it’s all wrapped up in a pretty bow, until our protagonist Ella finds herself in a pub and crashes into a brick wall that is Jamie Davenport, who turns out to be someone quite unexpected. I won’t spoil the rest of the story, but let’s just say Ella’s year at Oxford turned into something she hadn’t planned on at all. This story is filled with friendship, love, cliches, sex, and literary references that any English major would appreciate. Most importantly, it showcases the importance of loving yourself enough to know that you have the ability to change your mind.
I’ve often found that you can’t judge a book by its first few pages, and you just have to wait until the backstory is laid to start enjoying it. This is the case for My Oxford Year. Once I got past Ella slipping in pertinent details as the groundwork was laid for the rest of her Oxford year, and into the real meat of the story, I was unable to put it down.
Ella as a main character is a strong female presence, who while at times can be a typical female protagonist, shows off the personality of a powerhouse woman who fights for what she believes in. It’s a character who many women can relate to and hope to become.
Is it a completely new story? No, there are very many iterations of it in several forms of media. However, there’s a reason why stories like these do so well: they resonate with people and provide an escape from everyday life, which is one of the main goals (at the very least, it’s often my main goal) of reading a novel. Whelan also provides a distinctiveness to the characters, wish brings a really fresh take on the traditional romance, chic-lit type of book. My Oxford Year is perfect for an indulging weekend read after a long week at work. We could all use an Oxford year, a life-changing journey that puts things in perspective. Why not start with this book? (Just warning you, tears will probably be shed… there were definitely tear-jerker moments.