5 of 5 stars *****
What dandies this book and Dorian Gray are. Oscar Wilde's first novel reveals his opinions on women, romance, the arts, religion, and life in general through Dorian's mentors. Those original ideas are controversial for the late 1800's and still provocative for today. This story is written before women's right-to-vote and emancipation so the attitudes toward women, then, are very different than they are today.
This story centers around a portraiture of a young, handsome popinjay, Dorian Gray. Its creator, Lord Basil, consumes inspiration from the mere presence of his model. Dorian makes a wish that he could look as attractive as he does during this painting and his wish comes true, but not without consequence.
The story expands to romance when the naive Dorian falls hopelessly in love with a 17 year-old actress, Sibyl. Sibyl is smitten with Dorian and feels reality in a visceral way for the first time. Her performance on stage suffers greatly because of her love for Dorian, but this, too, has unforeseen consequences.
The most influential friend of Dorian is Lord Harry, who sees this youthful, perfect specimen maintain aspects of charm and beauty as time elapses. Lord Harry, almost vicariously, points out Dorian's attributes as being superior to others. What the mentors of Dorian fail to realize is how his experiences with reality affect the portrait rather than the man. The Search for Beauty as the Secret of Life lesson proves to be shallow.
Oscar Wilde's prose is certainly not amateur. He is quoted often and his books are classics, including, The Picture of Dorian Gray. He describes art as, "A dream of form in days of thought," in the preface; and atonement thusly, "It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution."