Review ~ The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Cover via Goodreads

Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life; indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was a succes de scandale. Early readers were shocked by its hints at unspeakable sins, and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895. (via Goodreads)

Like Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes canon and many Bible stories, The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of those tales that everyone seems familiar with even if they haven’t read it. Without any particular interest in it, I think I’ve seen at least two adaptations. Honestly, I haven’t read much Oscar Wilde though I have seen a few adaptations of his plays aside from Dorian Gray. About a quarter of the way in to Dorian Gray, I wasn’t surprised that it was his only novel.

My first thought while reading was: “This is what a novel written by Aaron Sorkin would be like. No one is *this* witty in real life.” The epigrams and amount of philosophy are exhausting. I re-read parts as I went along and still feel like I didn’t catch everything Wilde is saying. There is also occasionally an over-abundance of details which gets in the way. Did I really need 5-6 pages on Dorian’s material obsessions including embroidered tapestries? I suppose it shows hedonistic decline, but it’s some hard reading.

The more plot-aspected portions of the novel are excellent. Its creepiness is on par with Poe and with a moral focus that Poe often lacks. I knew some of the dramatic beats of the story and they all came just a little later than I expected and that tension was a good tension. In all, it’s a short novel and one well worth the effort.

Genre: Gothic horror
Why did I choose to read this book? Everyone I know is reading/has recently read this book!
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes.
Format: In-browser ebook, Kindle ebook
Procurement: Open Library & Amazon

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7 thoughts on “Review ~ The Picture of Dorian Gray

  1. Hi Katherine,
    Your points of criticism of this novel are well-taken. I still liked it in spite of those weaknesses. I especially enjoyed your point that “no one is this witty in real life” thinking, ‘that’s exactly what I used to tell people who asked me why I didn’t like “The West Wing.” I wasn’t familiar with the name Aaron Sorkin so had to google him – imagine that, The West Wing makes an appearance! 🙂

    I don’t know if the 1950s(?) film adaptation with George Sanders,Hurd Hatfield,and Angela Lansbury was one of the ones you’ve seen, but I found it deliciously creepy, in spite of its totally changing the Sybil Vane character.
    -Jay

  2. I’m currently listening to the audiobook of this! I’m only maybe 20% in and so far it hasn’t been supernatural at all–so it’s good to hear there is creepiness in here! I’m enjoying it though, looking forward to seeing where it goes.

  3. When I was reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, all the monologues just kept making me think: he’s put everything in this that he could never put in a play. It was a bit overdone in places but the book worked for me. And I do agree with you it’s as creepy as Poe! Nice review.

  4. I agree with Jay about the film – I really enjoyed it. I can see where you’re coming from about the book although I did like it and found it wonderfully creepy!
    Lynn 😀

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