British exchange student Ross Cooper arrives at the University of Colorado armed solely with the accent and awkward social skills so typical of English lads. The last thing he expects is to fall for the all-American girl April, whose smarmy boyfriend is everything Ross is not. Amidst the typical university frolics of drinking, dating, and bonding with roommates, will Ross succeed in wooing the girl of his dreams?
Well-written and conversational in tone, A Foreign Education is a very fast read — the engaging writing style is perhaps the novel’s greatest strength. The story is a classic university comedy with added culture clash as garnishing; while entertaining, it is ultimately a foreign twist on the well-trodden territory of college clichés.
The novel’s focal point is, of course, Ross’ nationality: the story is coloured by his amusing naïveté in all things American. However, to the modern reader Ross’ ignorance often seems a little contrived — as does much of the humour.
Let me come clean: I am not a lover of situational comedy, and neither am I a man (to whom I think this book is targeted). I do not find profanity and nudity automatically funny — perhaps I am more one for sly wit. Ross is (let’s face it) pretty pathetic, and for the most part a passive main character happy to go along with what everyone else is doing. His roommates have their own issues (virginity) and quirks (vulgarity), and together they get into all sorts of scrapes and adventures which many of us can remember from our own university days.
Put it this way: in his debut novel, Craig Alan Williamson has ticked all the right boxes for college comedy, but I didn’t find American Pie funny and I’m unlikely to start finding it funny now.
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This book is one of my 100+ Reading Challenge!