Julie's Reviews > The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
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's review
Mar 07, 2012

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bookshelves: fiction-general
Read in March, 2012

For a book that came so highly recommended by so many friends, I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed in this one. Yes, Oscar Wilde has a wonderful way with words, flowery and elaborate. Yes, it's a classic of modern literature and I'm glad I read it. Still... disappointed.

In true 19th century fashion, the book isn't so much a plot with philosophical asides, as a series of philosophical monologues with the occasional bit of plot thrown in for color. In this case, the philosophies are mostly on youth, beauty, and morality, and I admit I skimmed through most of them. Taken together, the main thrust seems to be, "If someone looks sweet, innocent, and beautiful, then they must actually be so. Ugly souls are reflected in ugly countenances." It's an entire novel with the premise, "Judge a book by its cover."

Was this an actual 19th-century conceit? Was it just Wilde poking fun at his contemporaries, as he was wont to do? I have no idea.

Knowing only the premise when I started reading ("a man whose picture ages while he doesn't" -- which is not 100% accurate but close enough), I'd been sort of hoping for a more Machiavellian protagonist, who actively uses his looks and beauty to deceive, scheme, and manipulate. And while there is a little bit of that, it's mostly constrained to a small chapter in the middle, while the first half of the book is about how he gets the painting in the first place and the latter half of the book is Mr. Gray regretting all his debaucheries, which are implied but never actually stated.

In short, I'm glad I read it, because it's been on my "to read" list for over a dozen years, but I'm somewhat disappointed now that I have. Kind of how I felt after reading Bram Stoker's Dracula, as a matter of fact. Maybe I'm just not cut out for 19th century literature.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Wait! You were disappointed by Bram Stoker's Dracula? How? (Okay, I must admit that it's been years since I read it, but I remember that I found it fairly gripping).

Julie For the most part, I enjoyed it. I found that the text seemed to drag towards the end, in the way that many books of the period do. It amazed me that after a 150 page leadup, the actual climax itself was less than a page long, and there was less than a half-page of epilogue. I found that aspect of it quite disappointing.

message 3: by Rajan (new) - added it

Rajan good reviw

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