Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- Why do you think the author titled the book Oxford Messed Up?
What are the different ways the phrase "messed up" is used in the
book? What are the implications of its various uses? Can being
"messed up" be a good thing?
- Do you see this as a traditional love story? How is the book similar
to and different from other novels with romantic plotlines you have
read in the past, and how do these differences or similarities affect
the general themes of romantic love in this work?
- How do Van Morrison and his music affect and inform Gloria and
Henry and the other characters in the novel? Why does the author
use Van Morrison music as the link between these two isolated
- How do Gloria's dead women poets and the other poets
referenced affect and inform the characters in the novel? How is
poetry a language for both isolation and connection?
- Why does the author set so many of the novel's high and low
points in the claw-foot tub? What is its symbolism for Gloria, Henry,
and their relationship?
- OCD's internal struggle is not usually portrayed in mainstream
media. How did this book inform your knowledge of OCD? Did you
have any misconceptions about OCD before reading it? How do you
feel now? What has changed and why?
- Gloria describes Oliver as both a protector and jailer. What did
you think of him? Did your feelings for him evolve as you read? Has
there been something in your life that gave you security but was not
good for you? Were you able to let it go?
- Would this story have been different if told in the first person?
How would it change if told from Gloria's point of view or Henry's?
As it exists now, what devices does the author implement to place
the reader inside the minds of Gloria and Henry?
- When Gloria asks Henry whether he believes in happy endings,
he replies, "In theory." But by the end of the novel, he seems to
be converted. When does this transformation occur? Does Gloria
undergo a similar metamorphosis? Do you think Oxford Messed Up
has a happy ending? Do you believe in happy endings?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Grant Place Press.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.