THE FIRST TIME I went to Oxford? 1993. My parents invested in an English-speaking summer camp for me to spend a few weeks perfecting my proficiency in Shakespeare’s language. Hopefully this novel will provide them with a reasonable return on their investment.
With a dozen teenagers from all over continental Europe, I spent three exciting weeks wandering around the City of Spires, its cobbled streets and mysterious colleges. That summer I fell in love with theater by attending the Shakespeare Festival, where talented Oxford students interpret the bard’s plays in various college gardens. If you ever have the opportunity to take part in the festival, seize it.
I loved Oxford so much that I came back the next summer and stayed there for a month. That time I was lucky enough to find accommodation in one of the colleges, Exeter College (where Pippa studies). My room was very much like Madison’s one.
My fate was sealed. One way or the other, I knew I had to come back to Oxford … and I did exactly that in 1999. As part of my business degree, I was selected to spend a year at the prestigious university. For me, it was a dream come true. During my time there, I explored every corner of the city. Some of its most famous landmarks now have a personal resonance: The Randolph, the Turf Tavern, the Queen’s Lane Coffee House … I even celebrated my birthday at Freud’s, just like Maddie did.
I really do believe in destiny. When I met the gorgeous Englishman who was to become my husband, I found out the most intriguing coincidence. His parents, who met and fell in love while studying at Oxford in the 1970s, had bought their first house there, the same house I lived in when studying in Oxford twenty-five years later.
Now, please accept my apologies if I took some creative license. There is no side door into Exeter College garden from Radcliffe Square. I made it up. Also, it is very unlikely a student party, even a ball, would take place in Christ Church Hall.
Oxford is in a secret corner of my heart. I am so happy to share it with you.