Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review - The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

(Review by Jacqui Slaney)

Having recently watched a programme, where the character of Dorian Gray appeared, I realised that I could not remember the full story of the book. It had been years since I had first read it, and my lack of memory niggled away at me, so I decided to give in and buy it.

This is the description:

The novel tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward. Basil is impressed by Dorian's beauty and becomes infatuated with him, believing his beauty is responsible for a new mode in his art. Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil's, and becomes enthralled by Lord Henry's worldview. Espousing a new hedonism, Lord Henry suggests the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfilment of the senses. Realizing that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian (whimsically) expresses a desire to sell his soul to ensure the portrait Basil has painted would age rather than him. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, and when he subsequently pursues a life of debauchery, the portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of aging.

Within a few pages, I was caught up in the story, and remembered what I had enjoyed about it.

The root of the story is an old one, an attractive person worries about losing their youth and good looks.

The only difference is in this story they make a wish that they will always look as good as they do now, and all the changes instead will affect the portrait in front of them, a portrait by a painter  who has become completely infatuated with his subject and so the power of this goes into the piece of art.

Dorian is at first shocked by the change that comes over the painting when his first love dies, and hides the picture away from public viewing. Then he revels in what happens as it is corrupted and aged whilst he himself looks as untouched as ever.

The writing is flowing and descriptive, overly so in a few places, but the words paint a vivid picture and the characters are so good; they do make up for some flowery passages.

Henry Wotton is a one of these characters, he corrupts Dorian mainly because he can, and enjoys seeing the creature he creates. There are no strong voices against him, no one to speak up for anything good, so Dorian follows the path that Henry sets up for him to its inevitable conclusion.
There are some quite dark places in the book, a certain act of Dorian of instance, but that is what keeps your attention.

The pace is fast and does not allow the story to become bogged down, so you will find yourself reading it quickly.
There are lessons to be learned, but the author does not moralise at the reader so you can take the story on a surface level or look at the deeper message that is there.

I really liked it, and am glad that I revisited this old story. The story does not feel dated at all, and I think most readers will appreciate the quality of the writing.

7 out of 10