Friday, July 8, 2016

Zuleika Dobson - Max Beerbohm

Zuleika Dobson
Title: Zuleika Dobson
Author: Max Beerbohm
Publication Date: 1911
Pages: 252
Genre: Classic / Historical / Satire / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels
Date Completed: 5/20/16

Summary: D-list celebrity of Edwardian Era, Zuleika Dobson arrives at Oxford to visit her grandfather. Her presence makes serious waves among the undergrads, most notably, the Duke of Dorset.

What I Thought: This is a fun little book. Zuleika is a detestable heroine, quite self-consumed and famous for...well, not a whole lot. She's technically a prestidigator (magician of sorts) by profession, but Beerbohm doesn't make her fame too convincing. Her character reminded me quite a bit of the Kardashian sisters - which makes sense. They are practically living satire in my mind.

Upon meeting Zuleika, young men everywhere seem to swoon and fall madly in love. It's quite ridiculous. Both the Duke of Dorset and his chum Noaks become enamored with her before even speaking to her. Dorset becomes so enthralled that he declares he shall commit suicide for her; this after she has spurned his advances. The rest of the undergraduate class pledges to follow suite, all in the name of the cold-hearted beauty. 

There are some ups and downs leading to the mass sacrifice, but they to get there eventually. Oxford's undergrads are wiped out for the sake of love and the professors barely notice. After this, the novel ends with Zuleika getting on a train and heading for Cambridge, presumably to repeat the whole scenario.

Beerbohm made me laugh and his plot was so over the top. The idea of an entire undergraduate class drowning themselves for one woman is just as absurd in the book as it sounds here. There's not a lot of substance here, but the satire is masterfully handled. I did find virtually all of the characters to be abhorrent, but that was the point. Their egos reined supreme and led them to their fates, respectively. 

I especially liked that the one character I did like cited having read 27 of the Hundred Best Books as a virtue. Not sure what old list Beerbohm was referring to here - my limited Googling couldn't hunt it down - but it made me laugh. Very prescient considering this book ended up on a list of the same name which ultimately led me to it. 

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Possibly

A Reduced Review: A satirical look at Edwardian love and fame - a fun diversion and absurd storyline.

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