11 December 2007

200 word review: 'The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde' by Joseph Pearce

I was given ‘The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde’ at a time when I was developing an appreciation for his theatre work. I was fascinated by him, but just wasn’t interested in non-fiction at that stage. Now I’m older, with a longer attention span, I thought I’d have a read of this book. It’s slow to start but once I got past Wilde’s marriage it got into its stride.

For the first few chapters, I felt that Pearce was getting bogged down in detail; I understand the importance of discussing the work of Wilde’s influences and peers but at the end of the day readers will be more interested in Wilde than a bunch of authors nobody has heard of. Equally, I found Pearce’s lengthy refutation of other biographers’ claims that Wilde contracted syphilis a little off-focus and even self-indulgent. The biography is good – he doesn’t need to prove himself by discrediting other works!

That said, in later chapters Pearce really engages with the tragedy of Wilde’s life, especially drawing on his troubled walk of faith, and brings to life the struggles of this brilliant but confused man. A great read for Wilde fans; just persevere through the first few chapters!

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