Review

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

This was the first book I read for pleasure since starting university.  Like I explained in my blog post about it (which can be found here), I am attempting to read at least one novel or two novellas a month whilst studying and working.  On the side I also wish to read the occasional non-fiction book too.

This for me was a re-read.  I first read The Picture of Dorian Gray two years ago in the summer after I finished my GCSEs.  I can still remember sitting out in the sun, sipping lemonade and being completely enchanted by Oscar Wilde’s words.  It was unlike any book I had read before.

This time around, I am older and have a keener eye for beautiful prose, so I utterly enjoyed it once again.  As there was a 2 year gap between reading it, there were some elements of the plot I had forgotten so I very much enjoyed learning about them once again.  As I had been reading it on my Kindle, I was able to make full use of the digital highlighting function.  It is my favourite thing about reading ebooks – I can make all the notes I want without ruining a page!

Despite being written in the late 19th century, the language is not too difficult to understand once you are into the flow of the story.  Luckily my Kindle has a dictionary function that allows me to search any of the words I did not understand.  Due to some of the themes presented in the book (and the controversy they would have caused at the time of writing), some elements of the plot are mentioned quite implicitly and it takes a bit of thinking to understand what Wilde meant.  There are a few parts to the characters or the story as a whole that I only picked up on whilst reading for the second time.

The plot is a fascinating and thoughtful story about a young man who, when shown his true beauty in a portrait, wishes that he could have eternal youth in exchange for anything.  As Dorian Gray gets older and more corrupt in his beauty, he does not age nor do his looks fade.  Instead the portrait of him grows disfigured and old.  Wilde uses the portrait of Gray to represent his soul which allows him to lead his extravagant life with eternal youth whilst the portrait takes the brunt of his evil.  This representation of the good and evil in a person divided reminded me of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a novella I had to read for university.  The two stories have some very striking similarities.

I read this in short bursts over the course of two and a half weeks, mainly on my bus journeys to and from university.  This meant that I read no more than 30 minutes at a time.  This did not ruin my reading experience at all.  In fact, I never felt lost in the plot after putting it down for a day or two.

This book is an absolute classic and I hope it stays that way for a while.  I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, but especially to anyone who wants to read a book that will really make them think.  It is impossible to read this book without it changing the way you see the world!

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