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Oscar: A Life
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August 2020: Other Books > Oscar: A Life - Matthew Sturgis - 4 stars

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Nikki | 661 comments Since I’m currently living just around the corner from the famous Reading Gaol, I wanted to find out more about Oscar Wilde. He certainly led an interesting life, but I didn’t feel a huge connection to Wilde himself, which made it rather an abstract reading experience. Before his plays found success, he was ahead of his time in the dubious achievement of becoming a celebrity largely by acting like one. He was famously imprisoned for ‘gross indecency’ after intimate details of his homosexual relationships were revealed in court by the his lover’s father the Marquess of Queensbury, who Wilde had accused of libel for calling him a ‘sodomite’. However, in this book Wilde comes across less as a romantic martyr suffering for forbidden love, and more as a man wilfully rushing headlong towards his own destruction. His beloved ‘Bosie’ is portrayed here as petulant, manipulative, and selfish, and I found myself wanting to give Oscar a shake when he ignored the advice of friends and got pulled into Bosie’s doomed scheme to prosecute his father, and especially when he refused to flee the country before his arrest.

message 2: by NancyJ (last edited Aug 31, 2020 08:03PM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5685 comments Great review Nikki! Wilde was surely an interesting man. I learned about him while reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, and it strongly enriched my reading of the book. I saw Dorian Gray's self-destruction as a reflection of Wilde's own feelings about himself. If a person lives in a way that society judges as shameful, he is bound to internalize a feeling of shame. He found intellectual arguments to support doing what he wanted, but that shame led to self destruction.

It sounds wonderful to live someplace so full of history. How are you and the family adjusting to the move? How is the covid situation there?

Nikki | 661 comments I think I was too generous with the star ratings on this one - I feel like I got more of an understanding of him from your one brief comment than from the whole thick book!

It's funny, I lived in Reading before but never appreciated the history around me so much as I do after being away - I suppose we don't notice what's around us all the time. (I also want to learn more about Henry I, who founded Reading Abbey and was buried there.)

We're doing well thank you - it's was odd being in temporary accommodation for the first few weeks, especially with a 14 day quarantine at the start, but SO good to be getting more settled now. (Although there's not quite so much history out in the suburbs!)

Nikki | 661 comments Also, you asked about covid - it's been a bit of an adjustment for us as life is much more back to normal here in the UK than it was back in the Seattle suburbs, and schools are about to open in person at 100% capacity. Initially I was hesitant about joining in, since this doesn't seem to be based on the covid risk being fully under control, but I've decided to embrace it, both for my own sanity and because I've become persuaded by the arguments about needing to balance the risks against the other harms done by prolonging the lockdown.

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