I have mixed feelings about this book. I have this impression that The Picture of Dorian Gray is the unanimously loved classic, and I might be the exception but alas, let’s move on with the review.
I feel the basic premise of Oscar Wilde’s most famous novel is part of the collective consciousness. I only noticed how little I knew about it once actually listening to it. A beautiful young man poses for a portrait. Upon completion, he becomes obsessed with his beauty and makes a Faustian deal with the ether that his portrait might lose its beauty instead of him.
Under the wing of
the devil himself Lord Henry, he loses an internal battle with his own innocence to be a good person and begins his pursuit of pleasure and beauty. If at first surprised and horrified, he later becomes happy when all the signs of his cruelty and ugliness are reflected in the portrait and not on himself. He hides and locks away the portrait, and moves through life without caring about anyone other than himself.
I am reviewing the Audible exclusive audiobook, narrated by Russell Tovey.
First of all, the narration was honestly wonderful. I adored his tone and the cadence and the way he read different characters. It sounded like honey to me; it was just delicious to hear.
I can also appreciate how beautiful the language was. Oscar Wilde was a poet when writing prose, and his prose feels like a love affair with the English language. It’s beautiful, but never unnecessarily flowery, a difficult feat to manage. There are so many wonderful quotes in this book, and it’d be impossible to mark them all while reading.
I also understand the story he was trying to tell and can intellectually appreciate it. The scathing criticism he makes of art, and of society, and everything. His characters are alive, and there is development to Dorian as he becomes a worse and worse person as the years go by.
I see it all. It’s just I really didn’t enjoy reading it.
I didn’t want to spend time with these characters. Is that a thing? I didn’t enjoy Sybill’s suicide over a conversation with a guy she didn’t even know for that long. I didn’t enjoy Lord Henry’s devil-on-the-shoulder part and his endless aphorisms. I didn’t enjoy Dorian’s failed half-hearted attempts at being a better person.
I don’t know. Maybe this was not the right time for me to listen to this, or maybe this book is not for me. Let’s hope the next one makes me a bit happier.