Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.

- Graycie Harmon

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics)The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's rare that I'll pick up a classic simply because it is a classic. Generally, something must draw me in. I actually read this book in anticipation of the latest screen adaptation (starring Colin Firth and Ben Barnes), which had recently been released on DVD. Well, recently by my standards.

The problem with reprinted classics is, and this is only a problem if you are not so inclined, the foreword (and the end notes). If you are looking at the story from an academic perspective, they're nothing short of brilliant.

However, if you're trying to enjoy the story simply as as story, you'd do best to not read the foreword and stay well away from the end notes. With the information you read in the foreword - almost always about this book being Oscar Wilde's fall from grace, as it were - you read passages within the book in a whole new light.

As someone who is academically minded, I wasn't too concerned by this, though I did find that it detracted from enjoyment of the story as purely a story.

The story itself is brief. Oscar Wilde is a master of language and uses metaphors brilliantly to paint stunning imagery in the imagination. His use of descriptives is truly second to none. The story line is as pertinent today as it was in Mr. Wilde's time.

In a culture obsessed with youth and beauty, one wonders what happens to the very souls of those who hold their reflections above all else. To be honest, though, no beautiful person I've met has ever been horrid. Some have been perfectly vacuous, but not horrid. I digress.

The execution of the story was, despite the beautiful language and brilliant idea, rather disappointing. My problem is, of course, that I'm far too used to moments of incredible excitement. That's what happens when one reads mostly action-packed genres such as fantasy. It very much felt like things were building to a massive climax in the final few chapters. The actual turn of events was far less ... epic.

This, of course, was nothing more than a matter of expectation and realisation. My expectations for the ending were too high, I fear. Again, I'm going to blame this on fantasy. It's a convenient excuse.

If you're looking for stunning language and imagery, I highly recommend this book. Just don't expect any explosions.

View all my reviews


Debbie Maxwell Allen said...

Funny you should review this. I downloaded it to my Kindle a few days ago because I thought I ought to read it. I guess I won't have as high expectations of the ending, but thanks for the heads up on the language!


S.M. Carrière said...

It was still a good book, and I do recommend everyone reads it... the poetry of the language alone makes it worth it.