My third book for 2019 followed a year in the life of 24 year old Ella as she starts her journey as a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford. Ella is a young prodigy in American politics. She is young, driven, and has a plan for her entire life. She has wanted to spend a year in Oxford since she was a teenager, and her Rhodes year is her last hurrah before she has to get a job and tackle the real world.
Of course, once she gets to Oxford, she is offered a job on a promising US political campaign (and allowed to work remotely), makes friends, and meets a man. The novel follows Ella as she progresses through her year at Oxford. It’s a great read at first: the descriptions of the beautiful city and university are written with love. The book made me want to go back in time and try a little harder in college so I could study in the city of dreaming spires. The architecture is spoken of with reverence: “That’s what being here does to people. Gods live among these spires.”
The plot starts to wander halfway through the book, and I was left wondering where the whole novel was headed. Then everything changed and left me very conflicted. I thought I was readying a plucky coming of age novel, but it turned into a saccharine romance novel, and not a cheerful one. Yet,I wanted to finish it as the writing was great.
On a personal note, I was excited to read this book because I live in Washington, DC and have been working in or around politics my entire adult life. At the same time, I am a passionate Anglophile and would gladly move to the UK right now, Brexit mess and all (it can’t be more messed up than the US these days). British history is my passion. But while this book straddled both DC and the United Kingdom, the plot overtook the settings and left me feeling bittersweet.
One thing really irritated me. There is absolutely no way a political campaign would hire a policy aide to work remotely on a potential presidential campaign. No. Way. Campaigns are all about giving up absolutely everything in order to win the election. 24 year old political science majors are a dime a dozen in DC, and seriously, no one is that special at such a young age in politics. There is no way this campaign would have allowed Ella to advise the Senator remotely while she was supposed to be studying in Oxford. Come on!!!
All that being said, I would still recommend the book as a nice palate cleanser. Further research tells me it is being made into a movie, which I will devour if only to look at the gorgeous scenery of Oxford.
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