Oscar’s Books

Written by Thomas Wright
Review by Doug Kemp

This is a wonderfully well written biography of Oscar Wilde, and one which takes a very different approach, for it covers the great writer’s life purely from a literary perspective, i.e. from the books that he read, owned, loved and those he despised. It is a particularly apt method for the study of this great writer and wit, for if any man can be said to have lived a life through books and reading, it was Wilde. They shaped his very existence and he relied on them completely as inspiration and as constant personal touchstones, especially during his prison sentence in the late 1890s. He often claimed that books had more of a reality for him than mundane, non-literary life.

This biography absorbs the tenor and essence of the late 19th-century society in which Wilde moved and the times are vivid and alive for the reader. Both as an original way of looking at Oscar Wilde, and a source of the historical experience of his times and society, this is very much worth reading.