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.
Really would rate this 4 1/2 stars overall. A classic novella from one of the best prose writers of all time. Wilde was a master at the "turn of phrase", and in this story the character of Lord Henry (called "the prince of paradox") is a stand-in for Wilde himself. This is a novel that needs to be read (or listened to) more than once to catch all the philosophical ramblings. I did not think that Dorian should be blamed for all the degradation he believes he caused. After all individuals are responsible for their own actions and have a choice - they followed Dorian willingly. He himself was greatly influenced by the cynical Lord Henry. The idea of having the picture change with each cruel action was a brilliant literary device. Simon Prebble's narration was excellent although I did have some problems telling Lord Henry and Dorian apart.
An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.
Yes, because it was great to listen to while working around the house. I probably wouldn't have taken the time to read the book.
Sybil Vane, the beautiful actress who falls in love with Dorian Gray. I felt sorry for her and she was the most human of all the other characters. More easy to identify with, in stead of the rich, vain people that were in this novel.
I don't remember, he was a good narrator for this book. He did make Dorian Gray a very irritating person, but then he was irritating.
Take a look at me!
Great story about vanity and evil. Some wonderful Wilde lines that made me chuckle.
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.
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!
I have recommended, and will keep recommending, this book/ audio book to anyone and everyone. Lord Henry shows both the impractical and the practical side of a wicked philosophy, while Basil shows the craving for simple, naive, or innocent personalities among those of us who have come into the knowledge of sin and yet resist temptation. Dorian Gray, and the changes he faced throughout this novel, represent the transition from innocence to adulthood and how simple mistakes change us forever. In this hauntingly beautiful novel, Oscar Wilde depicts both this philosophy, and his wit without overpowering the underlying moral takeaway in what has to be one of the greatest novels of all time.
I would not recommend this for Militant (i.e. unwilling to learn) Christians, Atheists, or other firm believers in something absolute. This is a novel for those willing to learn, for in learning, you are re-instituting your very belief system.
Audible obsessed lifelong learner.
Oscar Wild's only novel is full of murder and mayhem in the life of a self absorbed socialite. It tells the Faustian story of the downfall of Dorian Gray due to his deal with the devil tied up in a painting that captures his aging and moral decay and keeps him young. Very interesting twists.
"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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