Jul 26, 2018

[Books] The Picture of Dorian Gray Audible Review

My limited exposure to Dorian Gray before this audio book had been through the quirky movie adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as based on the comic of the same name. But that meant I knew little about the man beyond him being immortal and that was it.

But The Portrait of Dorian Gray is so much more than the story of a man who gains immortality. After going through the story I now understand why sites like Wikipedia describe it as a philosophical novel first and foremost since beyond the fiction there are a lot of heavy concepts thrown about as different approaches to experiencing life are presented.

And this particular version was certainly a pleasant listening experience that did well to bring new life to the classic text.

Synopsis: The Portrait of Dorian Gray is philosophical novel by Oscar Wilde. This review is for the Audible audiobook edition as read by Russell Tovey.

The story begins with Lord Henry Wolton as a guest of the artist Basil Hallward. As Basil busies himself with his painting, the subject of the portrait captures Lord Henry's attention given his particular beauty. Eventually Basil reveals that the young man in the painting is Dorian Gray, his latest and perhaps final muse. Through painting him Basic believes he's coming to a fuller understanding of true beauty. Lord Henry insists that Basic introduce him to Dorian who fittingly enough arrives while he is present.

Lord Henry quickly fills Dorian's heads with his views on the fleetingness of youth and the need to live life to the fullest in a rather hedonistic manner. This eventually inspires Dorian to venture out more and seek romance and make the most of his life. But at the same time he walks away so convinced of Lord Henry's discussion of the value of youth above all else, Dorian ends up wishing that the painting would age instead of himself - something he swears he'd give up his soul for.

What I Liked: This book has some amazing lines that are so artfully put together that they could be prose. I initially considered quoting some choice lines but there were just too many to remember all at once. Naturally a lot of these lines aligned with the different philosophies the various characters claimed to be their driving motivations or their key principles in life. And as all sides are so beautifully represented, it's really up to the reader to decide where to go with all this.

The performance by Russell Tovey was more delightful that I expected as he did a great job of trying to give distinct manners of speech to each of the characters. One of the more distinct voices naturally had to belong to Lord Henry and his involvement in any scene proved to be something to look forward to. I didn't realize he was this creative with voices such that I never had a problem distinguishing the characters from one another.

What Could Have Been Better: As much as most of us remember Dorian Gray for his immortality, its presentation in this book was actually a lot more subtle than I had expected. There was the exclamation about wanting to live forever but it almost felt like a joke or something silly you'd say between friends. It wasn't until much later when Dorian was telling Basil his story that things really hit home.

Dorian is actually a somewhat boring character once he goes on his journey of indulgent sensualism, We don't necessarily go into detail in terms of what he does but more how people react to his lifestyle at different points of his life. So we just have a lot of people mentioning how bad he has become but we don't necessarily know this apart from maybe the direct antagonist represented by James Vane much later in the story. But even then it's not quite a condemnation of his actions but more an act of revenge for one person who was more of an incidental victim of his new outlook on life.

TL;DR: The Portrait of Dorian Gray is a rich text with beautiful words and heavy themes all rolled into one. This Audible audiobook edition is a delight and certainly worth the credit for the month. And thus the book gets a great 5 voices that Russell Tovey manages to perform out of a possible 5.


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