Oscar Wilde’s classic endures with its gems of astute observation and cynical wit. The eerie story follows a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty in the form of a supernatural portrait. Life's mysterious paradoxes are laced throughout Lord Henry's brilliant aphorisms. Gray is urged by Henry to "love the wonderful life that is in you." The novel's qualities are mired in decadence, "art for art's sake," the new hedonism of the Victorian-era upper class, and societal moral corruption. Simon Prebble perfectly achieves Lord Henry's "low, languid voice" and sparkling conversation, while avidly expressing the other characters' more torrid emotions. Prebble brings the fable's gothic horror to life, but the more youthful characters lack believable intonation.
Having listened to samples of most other readings of this book, I can assure you that this is the most captivatingly read. Simon Prebble conveys the cynicism, wit and drama of the text in a fashion that truly draws you into the world. I'd recommend it to anyone.
Oscar Wilde's only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray tends to be classified as "horror" because the underlying premise is indeed one of supernatural horror: a dissolute young man is blessed/cursed with eternal youth, thanks to a portrait painted by an artist friend of his which reflects all the sins and depravities of his debauched life. As Dorian Gray stays young and beautiful, his portrait becomes more and more ghastly, until the karmic climax.
Nonetheless, if you actually read the novel, the "horror" aspects, particularly the supernatural parts, are understated. Dorian Gray, who begins as a rather callow but not evil youth, falls under the cynical influence of Lord Henry Wotton, a professional member of the do-nothing aristocratic class. When the painter Basil Hallward captures Dorian's Adonis-like perfection on canvas, Dorian is overcome with the tragedy of his own face growing old and wrinkled while the painting will always capture him as he was, young and perfect. He wishes it could be the reverse, and gets his wish.
Unlike in the movie versions, there is no magical Egyptian cat-god or explicit deal with the Devil that makes this happen — for Oscar Wilde, Dorian Gray's selling of his soul was entirely metaphorical. He was apparently satirizing the Aesthetic Movement (though he was himself one of its more prominent representatives) which can best be summarized as "Art for Art's Sake." It was associated with decadence and disregard for social and moral judgments; Dorian Gray was a literal manifestation of the Aesthetic ideal: he sold his soul for Art (or rather, a piece of art).
Dorian becomes increasingly heartless after his cruel treatment of Sylvia Vane, whom he loved for her art but then jilted when she let him down artistically. After a brief attempt at redemption, he becomes one of the most notorious men in London, though notably, the precise nature of his many evil deeds is never described, leaving it all up to the reader's lascivious imagination. He ruins lives and destroys everyone close to him, yet still manages to keep a few close friends like Lord Henry and Basil.
(I definitely picked up some homoerotic vibes between Dorian, Lord Henry, and Basil, which is interesting since apparently Wilde had to cut out some of the more overt homoeroticism when it went from serialization in a magazine to publication as a novel.)
So, read as a horror novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray is kind of lightweight — it's definitely not "scary" — and as a satire/criticism of the Aesthetic Movement, it is not terribly subtle. However, Oscar Wilde was most famous for his bon mots, and reading Dorian, Lord Henry, and Basil exchange wry witticisms is the real pleasure of the novel, even if none of them talk like actual people having real conversations. This book could be mined for quotable lines on every page, and as a story of a man falling headfirst into Faustian temptation, it definitely has its literary moments. It is not perfect (it's awfully convenient how often Dorian escapes judgment by someone else's timely death, and the prose is a bit turgidly Victorian), but it's a solid 4 star book. Definitely worth reading for the one-liners and for absorbing a very readable literary classic.
In this novel, you can expect enough science fiction to make it interesting to sci-fi buffs, yet it is not the hyper sci-fi we find in current novels. There is no diving into the 'Why' something super natural has happened, it just did. In modern texts, I would consider some sort of explanation a must in a good sci-fi story, but considering that this text is 100 years old, I seemed to not mind that absence. It really is about the human heart's struggle to deal with one's immorality without going mad. The narrator performed well with a pleasing accent and I could listen comfortably at 2X speed. I would spend a credit on this one. For my favorite read on Audible, check out Ken Grimwood's 'Replay'. Hope this helps someone. Later.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a stunningly beautiful book, among my very favourites. I had not read it for many years when I stumbled upon this performance of it, and it has instantly rocketed to the top of the "Top 10" list in my Audible library.
This cautionary, "be careful what you wish for" tale contains many of Oscar Wilde's most celebrated lines, including my personal favourite, "There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." Beautiful-but-outrageous dialogue like this brings a lightness and some comedy to this otherwise sad story.
I'm not sure if I've ever given 5 stars across the board before, but this performance of this wonderful book is surely deserving of it. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Prebble gives a near-perfect performance. Each character has a distinctive voice, but the distinctions are subtle and totally believable, unlike some narrators who I think go overboard. His "Basil Hallwood" in particular is beautifully human; every ounce of the characters kindness, and his love for Dorian, comes shining through.
Despite knowing much of the plot of the story beforehand, it was better than I expected. Lovely prose and keen social commentary. A masterpiece. The narration was excellent.
I really enjoyed this book. Lord Henry is wicked and wise all in the same breath and you don't know how to feel for Dorian Gray. I would definitely recommend this to anyone.
I have edited 38 national best sellers and had a writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
At times while listening to this novel, I was astonished to realize that only one individual was reading it. Simon Prebble creates so many distinct voices, one might think several men and women are huddling around the microphone, and they call their ensemble "Simon Prebble." Bravo.
I suppose most people dive into this book already knowing what it's about, so the narrator's talent is especially important. The plot holds few surprises, so it's the performance that delights.
I also guess that most of Audible's subscribers are familiar with Oscar Wilde, his sexual preferences, and where they landed him because of where he lived and when. He was, I think, very courageous for including so many overt references in his book to homosexuality and the tragic end suffered by the men due to shame and the fear of being outed. (Excuse my use of that modern term in reference to this book. It worked better than "exposed.")
A few of the plot developments were easy to guess in advance, but that did not lessen my enjoyment. Sir Henry's worldview is interesting and thought provoking, and he is a solid, consistent character to whom Prebble gives voice.
I would absolutely recommend this to a friend. Firstly Oscar Wilde is always a good decision. Secondly it's just a great story. So many films have tried to adapt this but until you read the scene where Dorian mentally justifies his involvement in a major tragedy you will never truly understand why this qualifies as a horror story.
I liked the performance of Lord Henry. He's an interesting character because you never really get a bead on what his motivations are. Is he being serious when he says horrible things? Is he just goading people? The way he's played you are never really sure if he's being genuine when he encourages Dorian to be a terrible person or if he's running some kind of personal social experiment.
I was genuinely horrified when reading the passage where Dorian convinces himself that Sibyl was just dumb and that he didn't really have anything to be sorry about concerning her. Following the thread of his logic is just tragic.
It's an easy listen as classics go as it's relatively short. It's also interesting to decipher the real motivations of a lot of the characters.
Artistic, dark, philosophical
I'll never forget the ending, nor the climax. I don't really want to give either away to anyone who hasn't read it.
All of it was perfect, in regards to Simon Prebble's performance. Prebble and Jim Dale are my two favorite narrators.
Yes. Though it was too long for me to do so. It only took a few sittings.
This book has a lot to do with what "sin" or evil is. It also has a lot to do with corruption and the purpose of the conscience. Yes, it is fiction, but it is extremely philosophical. It is a worthwhile read, but not a light one, by any means. This is a book you read when you're in the mood to think and feel deeply. Naturally, the language is beautiful.
Mystery reader (especially series) and Austen lover
The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in 1890 as a short novel in a magazine. What seems rather tame in the 21st century caused a great furor in the 19th, and was viewed as immoral, wicked and vile. Dorian Gray is a startlingly beautiful young man who has posed for a life-sized portrait of himself by a prominent artist, Basil Hallworth. Just as Basil is adding the finishing touches to the portrait, his friend Sir Henry arrives and meets the impressionable young Gray. Sir Henry is an influential member of society who espouses (though probably does not follow) the hedonistic philosophy -- the only things worthwhile in life are beauty and the fulfillment of the senses.
His influence causes Gray to regret that his beauty will fade over time while the portrait will stay forever young and beautiful, and he expresses the desire that the portrait should age while he stays forever young. He "would give anything" to have that happen. At the time, he does not realize that that statement has formed a bargain. Under Lord Henry's influence and encouragement, Gray explores the world of the senses, becoming more and more morally depraved over time, but his beauty never fades. Every wicked or depraved act affects the portrait, not him.
This is a philosophical horror story, beautifully written by a master of the English language. Wilde's well-known talent for creating wickedly funny turns of phrase is used in this novel particularly well in creating the conversation of Lord Henry -- light, cynical, insincere, ironic, and quite pointedly intended for the character's own amusement in manipulating his listeners. Simon Prebble does a superb job of narrating, especially the cynical viewpoint, voice and character of Lord Henry.
I'm so glad that Audible made this book one of its Daily Deals: I doubt that I would have picked it up otherwise. And the experience was so much better than any movie that has been made of the story, Well worth even the full price!
"Inimitable Lord Henry"
No one but Prebble could interpret so well the languid tones and phlegm of Lord Henry. In the narrator's voice I could visualise the character's affected smile and slow gestures. Dorian also, from a youthful voice at first, becomes more detached, sophisticated, and Lord Henry-like in tones as the book develops. I cannot think of a more appropriate narrator. This is a priceless interpretation of the The Picture of Dorian Gray.
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