Zuleika Dobson

Another Oxford-based read to kickstart March is Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson (hope everyone had a great World Book Day yesterday by the way, what a brilliant bookish beginning to the start of spring!)

No crime this time, just an extremely satirical love story in which the captivatingly beautiful Zuleika Dobson leads a hopelessly besotted legion of Oxford undergraduates to suicide after the Duke of Dorset pledges to die for her in profession of his love. Zuleika, unfazed, travels to Cambridge, no doubt all the undergraduates of which will also fall under her bewitching spell. Will the same fate befall them? No one knows, but the humorous tale leads us to think that, somehow, it just might.

An unexpected switch to the first-person viewpoint of an all-seeing narrator partway through the novel, which is largely third-person narratives centred on Zuleika and the unfortunate Duke, reveals unexpected spectral characters that haunt the old University buildings and so this unique tale even adds a generous splash of the supernatural.

Despite being his only ever novel, Beerbohm’s 1911 Edwardian satire of doomed love was nevertheless extremely popular and was even ranked 59th on the Modern Library’s ‘100 best English language novels of the 20th century.’ Presenting a corrosive yet funny view on Oxford life in the early 90s, it is undoubtedly a romance with a difference!

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