|Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir|
Now, before I continue I must state that I don’t read memoirs. Why would I want someone else’s memories when I cannot fully appreciate my own? I would not have read this one were it not for the word Oxford in the title. Oxford summons for me all the mystery of cloistered halls inhabited with the characters and spirits of, among others, C. S. Lewis, (“and now the bridge is breaking. . .”); J.R.R. Tolkien (“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.”); Thomas Hobbes (Appetite, with an opinion of attaining, is called hope; the same, without such opinion, despair.”); John Locke (“The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.”); and John Donne (“More than kisses, letters mingle souls.”) How could I refuse such a book, if it would, only in snatches, put me in the presence of such as these. I love Oxford for the writers it has nourished, who have then nourished me.
But, on to the book. I fully expected to hate it as a memoir, but the more I read the more I wanted to read. I soaked up every quote at the beginning of each chapter and the quotes within, quotes from U2 and the Beatles to poets, poets, and more poets. I found myself laughing at her mishaps and cringing at her pain. When I finished reading, I found myself wanting to stand in Oxford with her. I wanted to eavesdrop on her conversations. I wanted to know her friends. Beyond every pain and the paradox, she found joy. And when it all came to a close, it became a small love story within a larger love story that overcame the author’s doubts as she learned to live with paradox and promise. It very much reminded me in some intangible way of Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis.
Surprised by Oxford makes you want to stop and listen; to ask questions along with the author, the same questions she was asking. Why does God let babies die? Why do horrible things happen if there is a loving God? Why are people so evil? Why does everyone else have it all together and I can’t seem to catch up? How does Christian faith work in real life, in academia? These are questions I have asked, and some that I ask still.
Surprised by Oxford is a book written by a writer who loves the English language and shows it. She uses British terms and spelling but never without an explanation. Some other reviewers found this to be a problem, but I enjoyed experiencing Oxford life, Briticisms and all. I recently read another memoir by another literature grad student and found it so dull I could barely finish it. Surprised by Oxford
|Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life|
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