Zuleika Dobson is a conjurer by trade and a femme fatale by nature. She visits her uncle at Oxford University and all the young men studying there fall in love with her. She is unable to love any man who is not impervious to her charm, and her frustrated suitors are driven to suicide. The novel is a wicked, funny look inside Edwardian Oxford.
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Originally published in 1911, Beerbohm's only novel is a absolute delight to read. The titular Zuleika visits her grandfather, a Warden at an Oxford college. She is a professional magician, but more known for her beauty than for her skill. Immediately men at Oxford begin to fall in love with her. The most important is the Duke of Dorset, a paragon of aristocratic virtue and a shining star at his college. He's never been in love before and his reaction to it is rather extreme. Honestly, the plot isn't all that complex and is even a little silly. What makes the book is the wit and pure talent with words that Beerhohm brings to it. The Duke's proposal speech is one of the most purely pleasurable things I'd read for a long time.
Reading this book felt a bit like eating candy - it's just so enjoyable and lighthearted, even though the subject matter is - at least in outline - pretty dark. Beerhohm has such a way with words. Even though this is his only novel, I'm looking forward to reading more of his other writing.