With 19 out of 20 reviewers rating it 4 or 5 stars, Andrea Kayne Kaufman's Oxford Messed Up is a top pick among BookBrowse readers! Here's what they have to say:
Oxford Messed Up is the story of two highly original characters destined to be together. I enjoyed the unique personality of Gloria, who attempts to rise above OCD; and Henry, trying to overcome the chains of remorse from a demonized past. They share a bathroom and a devotion to Van Morrison, and they believe in each other when paralyzed by their own self-doubt (Pepper E). I loved this book. Andrea Kaufman does a marvelous job creating characters with major personality flaws and turns them into people with heart and substance... I especially enjoyed the intellectual aspects of the book as Gloria writes and comments about her women poets and she collaborates with Henry regarding the poetry/music of Van Morrison. For me, the book worked on many levels, and I was truly pleased with the results (Beth C). Oxford Messed Up is a smart, compelling book (Amy M); it is believable, and keeps the reader's interest. I'm looking forward to more from this author (Karen B).
Some readers were interested in the personal connection sparked between Gloria and Henry:
I really enjoyed Gloria and Henry's relationship and how they found hidden strength within themselves. Their shared connections left me wanting to read dead feminist poets and listen to Van Morrison (Kendra R). Anyone looking for a sensitive love story with unique characters will enjoy this debut novel - I know I will look for Andrea Kayne Kaufman again (Pepper E)! Mental and emotional disorders are never cured by crafty techniques but rather by relationships. It might be the relationship of a therapist-to-patient or, as in this story, the healing power of a love relationship. Relationships cure - what a beautiful message (Shirley L).
While others enjoyed Kaufman's references to Van Morrison's music:
I played Morrison's CDs while reading the book, which gave me new insight into his music (Jane R). Kaufman treats us to brave, wonderful - if not somewhat broken - characters that you can picture perfectly in your mind. Both main characters have great difficulties to overcome and the reader is brought along for the very enjoyable ride. And being a true Van Morrison fan, I adore how Kaufman weaves his music into this unusual love story (Diane D). The insertion of poetry, rather than being a distraction, adds a special insight into Gloria's character. You will immediately reach for a Van Morrison CD as soon as you are finished reading the book (Joan V)!
However, a couple of readers found room for small improvements:
I thought the characters had serious issues that could have been looked at in greater depth. Their relationship moved too fast, making it seem unreal (Debby M). At first I was not certain this book was for me; the first few chapters dragged, and the two main characters showed little personality. But Kaufman was being clever, for when Henry and Gloria finally meet in Oxford it reminded me of the first time I saw The Wizard of Oz go from black-and-white to color (Cindy).
Who should read this book?:
Oxford Messed Up will appeal to everyone. It's different and quite special (Bobbie D). I recommend this novel to book groups as well as literary fiction readers, especially those with a "thing" for Van Morrison and his music (Kate G). Readers can't help but root for Gloria and Henry. This book will have a number of topics for any book group to discuss (Jill S).
This review is from the June 14, 2012 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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