Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 286 KB
  • Publisher: Public Domain Books (1 Oct 1994)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language English


(Courtesy of

A lush, cautionary tale of a life of vileness and deception or a loving portrait of the aesthetic impulse run rampant? Why not both? After Basil Hallward paints a beautiful, young man’s portrait, his subject’s frivolous wish that the picture change and he remain the same comes true. Dorian Gray’s picture grows aged and corrupt while he continues to appear fresh and innocent. After he kills a young woman, “as surely as if I had cut her little throat with a knife”, Dorian Gray is surprised to find no difference in his vision or surroundings. “The roses are not less lovely for all that. The birds sing just as happily in my garden.”

As Hallward tries to make sense of his creation, his epigram-happy friend Lord Henry Wotton encourages Dorian in his sensual quest with any number of Wildean paradoxes, including the delightful “When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy.” But despite its many languorous pleasures, The Picture of Dorian Gray is an imperfect work. Compared to the two (voyeuristic) older men, Dorian is a bore, and his search for ever new sensations far less fun than the novel’s drawing-room discussions. Even more oddly, the moral message of the novel contradicts many of Wilde’s supposed aims, not least “no artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.” Nonetheless, the glamour boy gets his just deserts. And Wilde, defending Dorian Gray, had it both ways: “All excess, as well as all renunciation, brings its own punishment.”

My Rating: ★★★ (3 out of 5)

My Review

When I bought my Kindle I did what I presume most people do, scroll through the free books and download, download, download.

This was one of the first books I downloaded and when I signed up for the eclectic reading challenge and needed a classic book to read this was on the list. It was also recommended by a couple of people so it seemed a good choice.

I found The Picture of Dorian Gray difficult to get into at first. It’s not a long book, but it took me several weeks to read as it didn’t  engage me enough. I like a book to grab me and not let go. I want to be forced to carry on reading even when I’m so tired my eyes feel like sandpaper. This was not even close to that type of reading experience.

If it hadn’t been for the challenge I might have given it up as a bad job though I am glad that I didn’t stop reading as around 60% of the way through it did pick up. From that point on I read it in a couple of sittings and I found myself enjoying the developments in the plot.

There were a couple of chapters that lost me and I admit to skipping parts of them. Normally, when I read a book I read the whole book. I very rarely skip parts of it so this factored in my overall rating.

You might think my review doesn’t warrant anything as generous as a three star rating. I enjoyed the second half of the book enough to give it that rating. It was not a bad book, just not for me. I’ve ticked it off and moved on.


This is the third book I have read for the Eclectic Reading Challenge 2012. This is the book for the Classics category.

About Pete Denton

I'm a writer working my way through the redrafts of a British crime novel. I also write short stories, flash fiction and some screen writing. Check out my blog for more.
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24 Responses to Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

  1. Jane Gorman says:

    But it’s such an original idea, the creativity alone deserves 5 stars, doesn’t it? And it’s an idea that’s been borrowed and adapted, in ways both silly and creative. Now I’ll sound like a broken record – since I recommended Jasper Fforde on your list before – but The Fourth Bear has a great take on this (purely coincidence that I’m mentioning him again).

    • Pete Denton says:

      I can see why some people would really like the book and I’m glad a persevered with it to the end. I will keep reading different areas as they are broadening my depth of writers. And I should read more.

  2. Kourtney Heintz says:

    This is one of my favorite books, but it is nothing like the books of today. The pacing, the structure, the characterizations, they all belong to a bygone era. I remember reading it at 12 and devouring it.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Kourtney. I think that is probably what I found difficult to read about this book. I’m not used to reading older works and would find the same issues with other classics.

  3. Jeannie says:

    I will give it a try…but if it doesn’t “grab me” by Ch.2 it’s a closed book. 😉

  4. I’ve seen the movie twice (about 20-30 years apart; old version, newer version), but never read the book.

  5. Pingback: Choose Your Friends | I choose how I will spend the rest of my life

  6. I haven’t read this in a long time. I do remember it being difficult to get into for the first bit of it. It is a great idea and a great story but the style and era it was written in made it a difficult read for me. But I definitely think that overall it was a good book that has a great story. Thanks for your review. It makes me want to find my copy and read it again. And that always makes me appreciate a review.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Conrad. It does have a good story. I think this probably says something about my reading growing up. I never read this type of book. Maybe if I had read more as a child and young adult life I would have enjoyed this style of writing more. If you re-read it I look forward to reading your review. 🙂

  7. Wow, you are now 45% to your Chapters editions…. Keep it up, you’d finish it soon 🙂
    Pete, you’re one of those blogger buddies of mine who inspired me so I hope you’d accept this token of appreciation from me::
    Thank you so much 🙂
    Dolly xoxo

  8. My son is reading this at school right now. He is an avid reader in many genres, but with this book he has asked that I make a donation to his school library (it buys extra credit) so he doesn’t have to read, “this bore of a book.” I am thinking I won’t be picking it up any time soon.

  9. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    I never enjoyed this either, I understand the intellectual arguments for it’s status as a classic, but they are not enough to convince me it is a great story

    Thanks for sharing your review for the Eclectic Reader Challenge

    Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out

  10. Androgoth says:

    The film version of this book
    is so much better my friend…

    I am new to your world of blogging
    but I will return and read through a
    portion of your work, well I will when
    I can catch up with everyone else…

    It takes an age to
    keep up with everyone 😦

    In the meantime do have a wicked
    rest of weekend and good luck with
    your manuscript…


  11. Pingback: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde « Blurb

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  14. avinitsky99 says:

    I just started reading this book now, and I’m so glad I found your blog. I’m new to blogging and your posts provide me with inspiration! Thank you.

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