The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: Book Review

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4 Stars

It seems like I run into references to Dorian Gray pretty frequently (Most recently in James Blunt’s song “Tears and Rain“). I decided to pick this up because I was tired of not understanding the references.

The Picture of Dorian Gray begins with one of Dorian’s friends, a painter named Basil Hallward, just finishing his portrait. Lord Henry is visiting Basil and happens to meet Dorian. Henry sort of becomes the devil on Dorian’s shoulder, asking something like, “Isn’t it a shame that this portrait will be forever beautiful, perfect, innocent, and pure, but you will age, wither and die?” This hits Dorian hard. In a temper tantrum, he prays that the opposite should happen. He wants to live unsullied and have the portrait bear the marks of his living. His prayer is answered. This frees Dorian to live the life of cruelty, debauchery, and addiction that he wants. The portrait is hidden away in the attic and it looks more and more horrifying. But since Dorian is forever a beautiful 20-year-old Adonis, no one ever knows about his secret life.

To me, this book was cautionary tale about not judging by appearances and how you might be able to hide your sins, but you can’t hide them forever. I was shocked to read the introduction (after finishing the book) and find out that the critics at the time of publication thought the book was immoral and terrible! The first version included some “homoerotic” scenes which upset readers in the 1890’s. Wilde’s popularity wasn’t helped by the fact that he was jailed for two years, basically for homosexuality. It seemed to me like Oscar Wilde and Dorian Gray became the same person in the minds of readers and no one wanted anything to do with the book or the author. But, obviously, someone saw the value of the book or it wouldn’t have become a classic.

I recommend this one. It’s very readable and, like I said before, references to Dorian Gray are everywhere. I’ll be glad to fully understand them now.

One final thing. I learned a great word from the introduction to this version–logorrhea. As in “Stephen King’s books frequently suffer from logorrhea.” Great word, right?

Reviewed March 6, 2008

Read an excerpt.

Read more reviews at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog, Reading With Tequila, and Fizzy Thoughts.

If you like The Picture of Dorian Gray, you might also like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dracula by Bram Stoker, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Buy The Picture of Dorian Gray at

Friday Flashback Reviews, a feature at The Introverted Reader

Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

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  1. I've been meaning to read this book after I saw the film, but it hasn't happened. Yet. Sounds like it's worth it though! Thanks for the review! 🙂

  2. I think I'm missing all the references to Dorian Gray… but I'd love to recognize them and understand them, LOL. I actually started reading this with a read a long a year or two ago and never finished. I think I'll try again this year!

  3. I read this one after seeing The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman. I wanted to know who the guy was. I don't even remember the book all these years later but I remember liking it well enough.

  4. Hi! Just wanted to let you know that the Mr. Linky for your Southern Lit challenge doesn't appear to be working. I just went to link up one of my reviews but ended up just leaving it in a comment.

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