Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Oscar Wilde's only novel is a deliciously creepy one, full of the dangers of extreme vanity and always seeking out the beauty in life. My first exposure to this book was approximately a thousand years ago when my little brother's Year 6 teacher(!!!) made it assigned reading for their class. Which, WHAT?!?! Obviously, he couldn't get through it himself, so Mum read it aloud to him and I picked up bits of the story from that.
But I digress.
This is the story of Dorian Gray, a beautiful young man. His friend, Basil Hallward, paints Dorian's portrait and rapidly becomes obsessed with his subject, seeking to spend time with him at every opportunity. But once Dorian meets Basil's popular and somewhat foppish friend, Lord Henry Wolton, who believes that life should be spent pursuing beauty and enjoyment, he becomes equally infatuated and has little time for Basil.
In a moment of weakness, Dorian gives up his soul so that his portrait will grow old and ugly while he remains young and beautiful. What follows is nothing short of scandalous, both for the time of publication and today.
At the beginning of the book, Dorian is basically a blank canvas, easily influenced by those around him. It's his infatuation with Lord Henry's attitudes that ultimately leads him to give away his soul. As time passes and the loss of his soul has more and more of an impact, he becomes a deliciously evil and cold character, almost sociopathic despite having the face of an angel.
It's a book that's full of Wilde's typically beautiful writing, a hefty dose of homoeroticism, and some truly incredible characters. It's not one that I'll read regularly, but it IS one that I'll come back to over the years because it's such an astonishing piece of fiction.
Have you read it? What did you think??
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
I'm going to be honest, friends: this book was MAJOR struggle bus territory for me. M.A.J.O.R. And really, I should have known that going in. Not long after I first published my Classics Club list, a friend emailed me to warn me about this book, and to emphasise the need to read it in physical form so that you could easily flip to the family tree five million times while reading. And hooooooooo boy, was he right.
This book tells the story of one family living in a small town in rural South America over several generations and one hundred years. It's part epic history, part magical realism, and it's a story told completely without dialogue.
It took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that one minute, it felt like historical fiction and the next, there'd be a plague of insomnia and no one in town would sleep for years, or a character would come back from the dead, or it would rain non-stop for months and yet nothing would flood, or a character would suddenly get blown away with the wind while pegging out the washing. In short, it was bizarre.
But ultimately, the magical realism elements were the least of my problems with this book. The lack of dialogue made it a very slow read for me. And that family tree moved completely invaluable, because every generation of characters has THE EXACT SAME NAMES as the generation before it, and it's impossible to keep track of the characters. Especially when one of the Aurelianos ends up having seventeen sons with seventeen different women, and ALL SEVENTEEN OF THEM are named Aureliano. Seriously.
Add in the fact that it features grown men falling in love with pre-teen girls and waiting for them to reach puberty before insisting on marriage, and aunts ending up in sexual relationships with their nephews, and it really wasn't an easy book to read. Or an enjoyable book a lot of the time.
There's essentially no plot a lot of the time - it's just a long rambling history. And while the writing was often beautiful - and don't get me wrong, there really were some BEAUTIFUL moments - there just wasn't sufficient payoff for me to find this book anything but a struggle.
Have you read it? What did you think??