Carolyn Drake, a brilliant young graduate student at Oxford University, is an agnostic intellectual from Canada. In her first days at Oxford, she meets a fellow student from Oregon, Kent Weber, and has a rather awkward misunderstanding of who he is. This leads to a lengthy conversation, in which he reveals the centrality of Jesus Christ in his life. In turn, this leads her on a personal journey, over many months, to her own relationship with Christ. (Several years later, Carolyn and Kent would marry, but that’s another book, yet unwritten.)
I love this book. One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in several years. Why was the book so much fun? Carolyn is a literary specialist in Romantic literature of the 18th and 19th centuries, so the book is peppered with apt literary references and bits of poetry. She is a gifted writer.
She is witty and honesty. It’s full of Oxford and friendship and scholarship and standing for Christ in an academic environment.
Surprised by Oxford reminds me a bit of both Surprised by Joy (the title and C.S. Lewis in the Oxford background) and A Severe Mercy (the journey to Christ in the Oxford setting, again with Lewis in the background). And yet this book is quite different and original, however it belongs in the discussion of these two other “Oxford journeys,” superb books all.