Tuesday 3 July 2012

The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde

Basil Hallward is famed for his portraits. His best yet is that of up and coming man, Dorian Gray. His portrait catches the eye of Lord Henry Wotton who insists that he is introduced to Gray. Basil reluctantly does so believing that Lord Henry will somehow corrupt Gray. Lord Henry likes the idea and so sets out convincing Gray that his beauty is the only important thing in life. It doesn't take much convincing and soon Gray is obsessed with his beauty. It takes a darker turn as he decides that he must do everything he can to keep his youth and beauty. He would do anything and as his soul is slowly destroyed his beauty remains the same if not amplified. Meanwhile Basil has somehow captured the essence of Gray's soul in his portrait and as it darkens this is reflected in his image.

This is my second time reviewing this book here (I think) but I am much too lazy to go hunting for it. It think it was near the start. Back then I said I disliked the book for too main reasons. First of all I found the language of the book too flowery. Secondly I disliked every single one of those characters and found it hard to enjoy the book as a result. Sadly, no matter how I tried, both are still true. I have come to some other realisations however.

Having thought about it I have read other books, particularly classics, where the language is similar. I am sure it's part of that era and yet I have liked other classics which have the same style. The same is true for the characters. No one is supposed to like Gray or even his friend Wotton. Plus I have read other books where I have disliked the characters and yet still enjoyed them (not many to be fair). So it must be a combination of these things.

It isn't just that though. I loved the idea behind this book. I really do and I am once again saddened by how much I couldn't take to it. I think the main overall problem is that there wasn't much to Gray's character to begin with which was why he was so easy to corrupt. He was already vain about his appearance and Wotton just gave him a little nudge. He did good but only so that others in his circle would look on him favourably. If maybe he had some personality to him or something that I could like then I think the contrast between what happens to his soul and the way he was before would have made me appreciate the book more. I am thinking of Jekyll and Hyde when I think of this.

In general I feel quite bad for giving it so few stars. When compared to Shades of Grey this is a master piece even to me but I couldn't give it any higher because I just didn't like it. I would hate to think that anyone is put off reading this book just because I didn't enjoy it. The truth is I am very much in the minority in my dislike.

I read this for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen challenge hosted by Hanna of Booking Through Heels.  You can see what others have read here. Also Hanna did a six month overview here. This has actually bolstered me a little bit. I was dragging my feet but having seen this post I realise I have only three books left and only one of those is a re-read (mind you another one that I disliked). If I can get past the re-read I will be fine.

As I said this was for the challenge and it seems only fair to compare the character Gray in the book to that in the film. I think he was one of the few that was actually true to form. Completely vain and self obsessed. I didn't particularly like him much in the film either.


  1. Karen... Strange that you didn't enjoy the book.. I'm in love with the book, after reading his word I feel like I've lived my life with Oscar Wilde and that we were close friends, even though we've never met, you can tell he really put his own soul into that book, and you really grasp what his philosophies were. love, the nature of people, beauty. Genius.

    1. I know, I am annoyed that I don't like it but I just couldn't take to it in the slightest. Everyone else I know who has read it loves it. In fact I know a few Oscar Wilde obsessives who don't understand it either. Never mind, life would be boring if we all liked the same things.