Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I finally got around to reading this, after having it sitting on my shelf for far too long, and I have to say I’m happy I’ve read it.

It’s only the third ‘classic’ I’ve read, after 1984 and Lord of The Flies (according to a list I found online) and though I like this book, it’s probably at the bottom of the list out of those three.

I want to say I went in pretty much blind, other than knowing Dorian Gray has a magic picture of himself that grows old instead of him. That’s all I knew and that’s what intrigued me about the book; the story sounds really, really interesting.

Wilde’s writing on the other hand, is a struggle for me. Sure, it’s lavish and beautiful, and I’ll admit he has a way with words and a way of turning a phrase that is quite admirable. He is very quotable, and I especially found a lot of the comparisons he makes about men and women and relationships to be quite entertaining. But more of than not, it’s also very boring. He tends to wring the absolute life out of every sentence, to go on and on and on, as if he was paid per letter he managed to force onto these pages. Of course, you have to see Wilde and his book as a product of its time, but still, it takes away from the very fascinating story that’s hiding behind there somewhere.

(Also, chapter 11 is just a long list of items, who the hell allowed him to write that?)

I realized halfway through that it’s not the painting that is the interesting part of this story. It’s Dorian Gray himself. Actually, more often than not it reads as if Wilde wrote two different stories and just mashed them together, and suddenly he will remember that he was to write some stuff about the painting. It’s a bit against my nature to say it, but I think the book might have been just as good, if not better, if the painting hadn’t existed at all, and the focus had just been on Dorian’s twisted mind.

To sum up: good book, good story, definitely a product of its time (so beware of over the top language) but a fascinating tale nonetheless.

Glad I read it, probably won’t read it again.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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  1. Enjoyed your take on this strange novel, Trey. I read almost everything Wilde wrote when I was in my 20s, after I was cast as Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest. I have to say his plays are far superior to this his only novel. The Picture of Dorian Gray drew on so many other works in the writing of it, I found it impossible to find the story’s heart. There’s an irony in that, I suppose! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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