Book Review: “Surprised by Oxford” by Carolyn Weber

June 19, 2012

I was initially drawn to read Surprised by Oxford because of the clear hat tip to Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis (which I thoroughly enjoyed). In many ways, it parallels Lewis’ autobiography and lives up to its namesake. It chronicles Weber’s conversion from being an agnostic seeking academia to a Christian seeking the face of God. It all takes place within her first year at Oxford, right where Lewis himself taught. And Weber, as a teacher of literature (like Lewis), heavily integrates poetry and literary quotations from many great authors into her story telling. These aspects made the majority of the book a pleasure to read in my spare time.

I must admit, though, that initially I read nearly a hundred pages and got stuck. I had a hard time wanting to pick the book back up to finish the three to four hundred pages I had left to read. The story began fairly jumbled and the constant switching and allusions to unknown pieces of literature left me a bit disoriented as I read. Weber’s references to literature was interesting and beautiful, but when I initially attempted to read the book they ended up distracting me from the story and thus making me lose interested in reading further. I had to force myself to continue reading chapter by chapter, and eventually ended up setting it aside for a few months to read other things (and finish my semester of seminary).

Ironically, about a week or so ago I picked up the book and ended up reading the rest of the book in a few days, my interest captivated the whole time. So I am not sure whether the story just had a slow start, or I had finally gotten accustomed to Weber’s writing style, or if attempting to read during my seminary studies clouded my mind and I just needed to wait until the summer when my mind was clear. Whatever the reason, I did enjoy the rest of the memoir, and had no trouble losing interest from chapter to chapter.

During this second reading I found that Weber told a honest and beautiful story of how the “Hound of heaven” laid hold of her heart and drew her to Himself. I thoroughly enjoyed her command of the English language and her use of quotes and literary imagery. Her story and writing also made me want to visit Oxford and see this great pillar of academia for myself. The writing may be too academic for some, but if you enjoy literature then I would recommend this book to you – just be aware that you may have to push through the initial pages before you are compelled to continue reading.

Rating: 4/5 

 Note: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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