This book was recommended to me by my daughter, who works in the book-related industry and gets lots of ARCs (as a full-time student, not that she hasThis book was recommended to me by my daughter, who works in the book-related industry and gets lots of ARCs (as a full-time student, not that she has time to read all of them.) However, this book she finished in one sitting, and found it funny, unique and eloquent. The story's taken place at Oxford University about an English major (like she is currently) does not hurt, either.
The book, strangely, reminded me of An Unnecessary Woman. The female protagonists in both books were intelligent, book-loving, yet reclusive and awkward. Most conversations and thoughts were either book related, or literary related. However, the two were vastly different in age. Although Aaliya in An Unnecessary woman was 72, Sam was only 20 here in this book. Sam was the last living descendant of the Brontes sisters. She started attending college in Oxford a few years after her Dad died a tragic death. She was homeschooled by her Dad all her young life on literatures (especially the ones by their famous ancestors) and hardly met any other human, so Oxford was a strange and intimidating new experience for her. When her Dad was alive, they played these treasure hunting games where her Dad would leave her a clue on a bookmark (hers) leading to other places with clues. The final destination always had a matching bookmark (his) with the treasure (usually a book.) Imagine her shock when the lawyer who took care of his Dad's estate gave her an almost empty shoebox with a "her" bookmark. In her understanding, her family was broke and had no inheritance or treasures left over from the sisters.
So, the story also has a small mystery with a treasure hunt, which I found just okay...although people who definitely needed a plot in their books will find it more intriguing. What I enjoyed about the book were the witty conversations, especially the ones between Sam and her tutor/professor Orville when they analyze literary works. I laughed out loud many times through out the book. This is when they first met:
"Why did you come to Oxford?" "Everyone's got to be somewhere." "Is that supposed to be funny?".... "I came here study English Literature." "And why was that?" "I like books." "You like books." "I'm good at reading?" "I did not ask you whether if you are literate. I asked you why you are studying English Literature. What do you imagine it will provide you?" "Unemployment?".... "English is the study of what makes us human?"... "Human biology is the study of what makes us human,"...."Try again." "English is the study of civilization." "History is the study of civilization," He corrected. "English is the study of art." "ART is the study of art.".....
The rest of the book was sprinkled with conversations like the above. They were more intense and take a bit of thinking to comprehend since they were filled with specific quotes and phrases from the Brontes and other books, as well as analyses of literature and writing. Knowing a little history and work of the Bronte sisters (and other classics) might help, but not necessary, to enjoy this gem of a novel. I also enjoyed how Sam moved from being a reliable narrator, to an unreliable one, and vice versa. It's fun to keep guessing. Watching her navigating her life is also cringe-worthy but enjoyable.
This review is getting out of hand, so I'll end with my favorite short quote from the book -
"It was the sort of library you'd marry a man for."
The book drew Ian in right in the first few paragraphs...and he couldn't stop reading it the first night. He immediately guessed that the disease wasThe book drew Ian in right in the first few paragraphs...and he couldn't stop reading it the first night. He immediately guessed that the disease was Yellow Fever, which he knew a little bit about. Kids nowadays are more knowledgeable than our times....more