Finch (An Old Betrayal, 2013, etc.) creates a lyrical ode to youth, idealism and love in a contemporary novel about a young man’s year of graduate studies at Oxford University.
There are moments and people that significantly impact a person’s life and spur major transitions, and Yale graduate William Baker experiences both when he arrives on the Fleet campus of Oxford. As he describes his year, he reflects upon the emotional, physical and intellectual journey that ushers him into the world of adulthood. While countless college students around the world routinely engage in activities similar to Will’s, what makes this fairly routine coming-of-age story so appealing is twofold: Finch’s accomplished narrative skills and his ability to connect each character with the reader. Will, a former campaign worker for John Kerry’s unsuccessful 2004 presidential bid, leaves his girlfriend, Alison, stateside and settles into student life in England, which he and Alison remind themselves is only for a year. But it’s a year that challenges their relationship, as Will contemplates social barriers, financial comfort and his feelings for Sophie, a fellow Oxford student who’s involved with another man. Will also develops friendships with a diverse group: snobbish Tom, who looks down on Will for being American but becomes his closest friend; Anil, a student from Mumbai who comically embraces hip-hop but can’t mask his concise BBC accent; Timmo, whose one aspiration is to be a participant in a television reality series; chronically broke, good friend Ella, who falls for Tom; and Anneliese, a German student and talented photographer. Will’s experiences aren’t all that unique: The friends drink and party together, fall in and out of love, and support each other during difficult times and devastating losses. But Finch brings each character to life with striking effectiveness as they struggle with issues of class, the political climate, academics and their futures.
A portrait of university life that’s contemplative and nostalgic.