Note – I received a copy of this book from the publisher through TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
About The Last Days of Oscar Wilde
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Burlesque Press, LLC (January 15, 2018)
How is it possible that the genius author of such 19th century classics as The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest died destitute in Paris at the age of 46? In John Vanderslice’s vivid and heartbreaking novel, we meet Oscar Wilde after a two year incarceration in an English prison for gross indecency. Once free, his reputation and finances in ruins, he leaves England for Paris where, frequently inebriated, he stays in shabby hotel rooms paid for by his few, remaining friends.
In Vanderslice’s deftly-imagined portrayal, Wilde’s idiosyncratic and affecting greatness is revealed. Through his thoughts and interactions, we experience the heart and mind of a literary giant brought down by the morals of his time. For a while, Wilde manages to maintain his legendary sense of humor and joie de vivre, a superstitious religiosity, and the dogged pursuit of beautiful young men. Sadly, the formerly prolific author and raconteur no longer has the desire to write. Instead, he distantly observes the world and is ultimately felled by serious illness. It is at his funeral that his artistic reputation begins its slow rehabilitation as friends and a small devoted public flock to the church to honor the artist, who spoke openly about homosexuality, the hypocrisy of Victorian values, and the importance of art for art’s sake.
I always think I’m familiar with Oscar Wilde until I realize that I’ve never studied him and I’ve never actually read one of his books. And by always I mean whenever I hear his name/think of one of my favorite plays, which I always attribute to him, even though he didn’t write it. I’m sharing all of this to say that I went into the book thinking that I actually knew something about Oscar Wilde’s life and was reminded once again that I don’t. I think some knowledge of his life would have been helpful. I felt like I was plopped in the middle of a story, but didn’t have the background I needed to fully understand it. I wish I had read a quick biography of him before I read the book just to have a little bit of that information.
I also found the story to be a bit depressing. You know from the description that we’re not the high point of Oscar Wilde’s life and he’s been through some stuff recently. When I read this I just wasn’t in the mood for that kind of story. I think this one will go on my shelf next to a fictional account of Ovid, which I’ve always said I’d like to reread once I’ve read some of Ovid’s work/learned more about him.
All of that being said, I enjoyed Vanderslice’s writing and I thought he did a great job of delving into the last years of Oscar Wilde’s life and engaging my emotions. I have more of an interest in delving into Wilde’s work after reading this, so I really appreciate that. This is definitely a worthwhile read.
Read This If You…
>> Enjoy historical fiction
>> Like fictional narratives of historical figures
>> Are a fan of Oscar Wilde
>> Are interested in learning more about Oscar Wilde if you’re not already a fan
“With elegant prose and a glittering wit of which Wilde himself would approve, John Vanderslice brings to life this agent provocateur’s final act. Masterfully merges insight and imagination with the historical and literary record to provide a portrait that is rich and nuanced and utterly compelling.” Rachel Hall, author of Heirlooms.
“John Vanderslice lays bare the consequences of Wilde’s betrayal by those whom he loved and trusted. The Last Days of Oscar Wilde is a grim reminder of the destructive power of senseless persecution.” Jennifer Steil, author of The Woman Who Fell From the Sky.
“A quiet, tender portrait of a literary giant.” Kirkus Reviews
About John Vanderslice
John Vanderslice is the author of Island Fog (Lavender Ink), a collection of ten stories and two novellas set on Nantucket Island, named by Library Journal as one of the Top 15 Indie Fiction titles of 2014. A native of the Washington DC area, John has an MFA from George Mason University and a PhD from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL). After graduating from ULL in 1997, he began teaching at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), where he is a much loved professor of writing. His fiction has been published in many leading journals, as well as several anthologies, including Chick for a Day and The Best of The First Line.