Book: Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career by Carla Kelly
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literature
Ellen Grimsley is brilliant and talented, and desires nothing more than to study at Oxford University. Unfortunately for her, she lives in a time when the very idea of women pursuing higher learning than embroidery, and perhaps a little French and Geography, is scandalous. Still, she manages to prevail upon her father to allow her to study at one of the finer women’s colleges of the time, in Oxford, England. Sorely disappointed in her classes, and bitterly aware of how little her older brother Gordon values the privilege of studying at Oxford, she finds herself agreeing to write his papers for him, if only to catch a glimpse into the world of higher learning. The plot thickens when a charming Oxford student discovers her secret, and she finds herself falling if love–if only she could be certain of what exactly love might be like.
After reading this book, I find myself needing to take back a certain bit of advice I once gave about judging books by their covers. I officially modify my stance. As I mentioned in my post about ways to find more time to read with kids in the house, sometimes for a busy mom, judging a book by it’s cover is a good way to be able to single out books that you’ll enjoy. In this particular case, I think it would have actually made me skip this book, and that would have been a shame, for reasons that we’ll get to in a moment. This book is a powerful example of how two different covers imply two entirely different books. Observe, if you will, the earliest edition cover.
There’s nothing exactly wrong with this cover, but somehow, my judgey-mom mind, would most likely dismiss it as just another bodice-ripper romance. I probably would never have even opened the book if this was the cover I saw first.
Compare it to the edition with the cover I’ve linked you to and BAM. Completely different feel, eh? I officially feel bad for some of my judginess though, because this book was spectacular. I started smiling two pages in and could scarcely put it down.
This book reminds me of Jane Austen’s Emma. It’s witty, and fun, and dashes right along. I seriously cannot even tell you the last time I enjoyed a book like this. Despite the questionably scandalous cover, the most scandalous things that happen are a few kisses–unless you actually still consider the idea of women running around Oxford, attending lectures, while wearing pants to be scandalous. If you do, I can’t really help you.
The sad part is that this book is actually historically accurate. As noted in the back of the book, the first women’s college attached to Oxford, only began in the late part of the 1800s, and women weren’t given degrees until 1920.
I think I liked this book so much because I sympathized with the main character. The idea that women have ever been banned from academia is repulsive to me. I love learning, and reading, and the knowledge that I can study whatever I take it into my head to study, so the idea that women have ever NOT been allowed to pursue their studies of interest… ooh, it burns me.
So. If you like Jane Austen–read this book. If you like books in general, with crazy intelligent characters, and lots of wit–read this book. It’s an easy read. 340 pages flew by. I could hardly read them fast enough.
I loved it: 5 out of 5 stars.