Sunday, 9 December 2018

Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm


Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm
First published in the UK by Heinemann in October 1911.

Z for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge and my 12th read for my Classics Club Challenge.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook via Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


'Zuleika Dobson is a highly accomplished and superbly written book whose spirit is farcical,' said E. M. Forster. 'It is a great work--the most consistent achievement of fantasy in our time . . . so funny and charming, so iridescent yet so profound.'

Originally published in 1911, Max Beerbohm's sparklingly wicked satire concerns the unlikely events that occur when a femme fatale briefly enters the supremely privileged, all-male domain of Judas College, Oxford. A conjurer by profession, Zuleika Dobson can only love a man who is impervious to her considerable charms: a circumstance that proves fatal, as any number of love-smitten suitors are driven to suicide by the damsel's rejection. Laced with memorable one-liners ('Death cancels all engagements,' utters the first casualty) and inspired throughout by Beerbohm's rococo imagination, this lyrical evocation of Edwardian undergraduate life at Oxford has, according to Forster, 'a beauty unattainable by serious literature.'

My primary reason for choosing to read Zuleika Dobson was that its title begins with the letter Z and I am rapidly running out of time to complete this year's Alphabet Soup Challenge! When I saw the novel acclaimed as one of Modern Library's Top 100 Novels it occurred to me that it would be ideal for my Classics Club Challenge as well - and its low Kindle price decided the purchase! While reading, the era and style reminded me of Aldous Huxley's Chrome Yellow which features a similarly upper class cast and wickedly observed humour.

Beerbohm was primarily an essayist and caricaturist - I believe this is his only novel - and this comes across throughout the work. Individual characters, especially among the supporting cast, are vividly portrayed. I loved the aloof Warden, the unfortunate Mr Noaks, and the wonderful Mrs Batch. Beerbohm's love of Oxford shines through as well. I've only visited the city for one day, but he obviously knew its streets and colleges very well. He captures the sense of history in both its serious and its dafter incarnations. The story itself is silly, but entertainingly so and, for a novel written over a century ago, there aren't many diversions into pretentious speeches or philosophy so Zuleika Dobson is a well-paced read.

I am not convinced I would include Zuleika Dobson in my own Top 100 Novels list, but I am glad to have found an opportunity to read it and would happily recommend the novel as an amusing and diverting read - particularly if you need a Z!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Max Beerbohm / Humorous fiction / Books from England

10 comments:

  1. I'm always interesting to see what you read since they are so different from what I read.

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  2. I've been looking for a Z, this one might just work!

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    1. It's an entertaining read and still pretty relevant despite its age

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  3. Looks awesome although you didn't know if it would be. It's great your doing challenges I shy away from them cause my reading taste changes often.

    Tori @ In Tori Lex

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    1. I tend to pick challenges that don't restrict me to reading a particular genre or writing style. My book choices are always too varied for that!

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  4. Love your reason for reading it lol, but that's great you did end up liking! That's also interesting that you could see his essayist and caricaturist background in the writing. I've noticed that kind of thing with screenplay writers, how that usually comes through in the writing when they write a book.

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    1. Now you come to mention it, I've noticed that too :-)

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  5. I did an a-z challenge recently as well and I understand how hard it can be to find titles to help you fit the challenge. But yay for reading this! The title intrigued me too because it was unlike anything I've heard before. Sounds like it was quite a good read as well ^.^

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    1. Yes! I expected it to be quite pompous and dry, but Beerbohm actually had a light touch and the story had lots of humorous moments and scenes

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