The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

I have to admit I had tried and failed with this book before. I didn’t like the characters; I thought the book to wordy and filled with too many additional characters with too much to say. I also just didn’t believe it, aged 21 I put the book down after page 30(ish) and left it thoroughly unimpressed by this “Oscar Wilde”. Six years later, and reading it in Oscar Wilde’s old room, would I again be defeated by what I think I once deemed shamefully ‘a very silly short book’?

Though The Picture of Dorian Gray is a short book it has hidden depths and very dark undertones. We first meet the image of Dorian Gray in a painting which Lord Henry Wotton sees at his artist friend’s house, Basil Hallward and falls in love with the painting as he thinks the person depicted may be one of the most beautiful and alluring people he has scene. When Dorian then arrives Henry sees in the flesh he is even more so. Soon the two people Bail is closest too and never wanted to meet have struck up an unlikely friendship and under Henry’s influence Dorian comes to believe youth and beauty are the only thing that matter. He then makes a fateful wish as he wants never to grow like the painting of him. He soon notices that indeed the picture does begin to age and as it does so it gets crueller looking as if the painting is the true Dorian himself.

Now if the plot wasn’t enough the book is also very much about society and which on a first read years ago I didn’t care for I completely and utterly loved. Looking at the upper classes who have endless money to burn and too much time on their hands other than to ‘chase the dragon’ or embark on affairs the thing they go very well is gossip and discuss. I could easily write endless wonderful quotes from the book as to what they say “he is sure to be furious and I couldn’t have a scene in this bonnet. It is far too fragile” and also how they are described “she was a curious woman, whose dresses always looked like they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest” in fact so many quotes it would probably make up 98% of the book.

I found the whole book a truly dark and delicious read. It doesn’t quite fall under the exact ‘sensation’ definition but I definitely think its great reading if you like books like that or a classic from around that era. Have you read the book, I would imagine quite a lot of people have and I am very, very late reading this now. If you have, what did you think? Is it on anyone’s TBR pile or wish list?

I have also found it really interesting to try a book again that only six years I really didn’t like and now think is brilliant. It’s interesting to see how my opinions have changed and my book likes and dislikes seem to have changed in various ways. Are there any books you started at one point in your life and hated only to then go on and fall completely under the spell of after a second chance later on? I would love to know!


~ by greatgayreads on September 15, 2009.

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