This detail of the plot echoes that of Brideshead Revisited, the 1945 novel by Evelyn Waugh. Brideshead Revisited also deals with a young man introduced into a glamorous set of students. Most glamorous of all is Sebastian Flyte, a rich gay Catholic who becomes increasingly dependent on alcohol as the book progresses. His overbearing mother sends a Fellow from All Souls' College named Samgrass to watch over him on her behalf.
Naomi Alderman has written on her blog about the long shadow Brideshead Revisited casts over authors who wish to write about Oxford and student life in general: "I stayed away from watching or reading it while I was writing my novel. Working on a novel about Oxford, I thought it was important to steer clear. But I know that some elements of the book are a response to Brideshead."