2008: 60. Zuleika Dobson

“That old bell, presage of a train, had just sounded through Oxford station; and the undergraduates who were waiting there, gay figures in tweed or flannel, moved up the margin of the platform and gazed idly in line.”

(The Illustrated) Zuleika Dobson, Max Beerbohm

Zuleika Dobson was totally different from what I had expected it to be.  I picked it up because it was on the Modern Library top 100 list, and knowing nothing else about it.  I had a sense that it would be like, a story about a midwestern woman - some sort of realism type story along the lines of Babbitt or Sister Carrie, I guess - who knows why.  And if I’d really thought about it, I’d have remembered that Max Beerbohm is a famous English caricaturist, and that it would be an unlikely subject matter.  

Anyway, what the book is about is a satire on Oxford, and women, and the battle of the sexes, I guess.  It concerns Ms. Dobson, who arrives at Oxford to visit her grandfather, who is a don there.  She is so gorgeous that every (every single) man there falls instantly in love with her, and ridiculous events occur (to say more would be to spoil).  It’s a strange little book - ridiculous, sort of cold, but the writing is razor sharp, and it’s funny and sort of sweet in it’s pathos (even if that pathos is caused by ridiculous turns of events).  And I must say I really enjoyed reading it - the ending is worth the price of entry, and is the perfect ending to this book.  So, I don’t know if it’s one of the 100 best novels of the century, but I quite enjoyed reading.

And if you DO read it, try to get an illustrated copy - Beerbohm evidently illustrated his own copy after it was published, and someone put out a version, and it is pretty cool - the illustrations make the story even better.


Date/Place Completed: 4/15/08; D.C.

Categories: Fiction, Library Book, Modern Library, Book Resolution

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017