Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

Zuleika Dobson: an Oxford Love Story

Those busts of the old Roman emperors at Oxford knew that trouble was brewing the moment Zuleika Dobson set foot on that noble campus. If anyone had been paying attention, he would have seen those venerable marble gentlemen sweating profusely at the premonition of what was about to transpire. You see, Zuleika is no ordinary girl. She’s the sort of extraordinary girl that causes every man who comes in contact with her to fall madly in love. Unfortunately, she could never love the sort of man who loses his dignity by throwing himself at her. And so, Zuleika is bereft of love in the world.

Her latest victim is also the most admired student at Oxford, the Duke of Dorset, who determines to kill himself because Zuleika won’t love him. Upon hearing of his determination, the members of his elite club, also madly in love with Zuleika, decide to enter into this passion-driven suicide pact. And when the rest of the male student body hear about this, well…

The book progresses from here, a zany cross between the madcap antics of P.G. Wodehouse and the wry, sardonic humor of Hilaire Belloc. Everyone is crazy, old Oxfordian ghosts regularly pop in and out of the scenes, and, oh yes, there is a boat race. Having read this book, it’s no wonder that author Max Beerbohm was so popular in his day. If you’re a fan of early 20th century British humor, you need to run out and get a copy of Zuleika Dobson: an Oxford Love Story as soon as possible.

4/5 stars