Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde (4/5 stars)

I have heard a lot about this book and, having read a few of Oscar Wilde's plays and enjoyed them, decided to give it a try.  Overall is was a good book, if a bit inconsistent in pacing at times. 

Dorian Grey is a beautiful young man, who is corrupted by a Lord to worry about how his looks might one day fade.  While a portrait of him is being painted he wishes to never grow old.  Later he realizes that the portrait is changing to reflect any cruelty in his nature, yet he remains the same.

Oscar Wilde is a genius at writing.  The cleverness of the language he uses and the sharpness of the commentary on society is deftly done and makes the story a joy to read, most of the time.  The footnotes in this version of the book help to explain some of the more subtle jokes that I would have missed without them. 

The book does have some flaws, especially when compared to modern literature.  Wilde takes nearly half to book to set up his characters.  You can tell Wilde is a playwright at heart because many of the characters wander off into multiple page long dialogues that get to be a bit too much and sometimes a bit boring.  Even in the second half of the book there are times where Dorian is reading from the book he is obsessed with and it just goes on and on and on.

The second half of the book is by far the strongest.  Wilde stimulates the imagination by talking about Dorian's unspeakable acts but never revealing what the majority of the horrible acts are.  I was a little disappointed that there isn't a lot more to the plot than what you read on the back of the book.  That being said, the end of the book is remarkable and really made the book a wonder to me. 

Overall this is a very interesting book and worth the read.  Some of the lengthy dialogues can get a bit trying to read through, but most of the book has a quick wit to it that is amusing.  The ending of the book holds some wonderful surprises.  I would recommend reading this, especially if you are a fan of Wilde's writing style.

This book goes towards the following reading challenge:
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
The Picture of Dorian Gray (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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