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Dorian Gray + Dead Souls

Book Review - Dorian Gray + Dead Souls

We read Dorian Gray & Dead Souls at our last meeting on 26th February. For what we are reading now and the date of our next meeting go the Book Club page here.

 
One of our “barometer measures” in considering books is whether Elliott likes it – and he did!! In fact, he even gave us homework to read the following, also by Wilde: (1) the critic as an artist and (2) the soul of man under socialism. Our main reflections on the book hinged around the author’s comments on youth versus old age, and about beauty being transient but art not. We liked its take on wisdom through humour, and we had a good discussion on the life of the landed gentry as depicted in the book – and whether that life style still exists today. We thought the book was rather self-indulgent and often a platform for Wilde to give speeches or subtle side comments – there were for instance obvious swipes at Dickens. We also wondered where all the policemen were, and how people got away with such crimes in those days; and we drew parallels with certain high profile celebrities of today getting away – or at least believing that they could get away – with various wrong-doings. But all in all, we liked it.
 
 
 
 
This is a love it or hate it kind of book – and it’s all about “getting status”. Although we found the languid style of writing tedious, on reflection we quite enjoyed it. However, this is the royal ‘we’ as only Jo was able to finish the book (well done to Jo), with others either not starting the book at all or only part of the way through – though determined either to finish it now or to keep it to read if stranded on a desert island! Although the author appears to chat to you, we were suspicious of the translation and wondered whether it was trying too hard to make the Russian text understandable to the English reader and there may have been bits that were lost in translation. We also thought it ‘went on a bit in the middle’ and that it was a bit repetitive – though what we hadn’t realised beforehand that it was an unfinished book!
 
Our summary of the two books central themes was ‘it’s all about class’!