Oscar: A Life
Even if Oscar Wilde had led a mundane existence he would still be remembered today because of his sparklingly modern plays and iconoclastic essays. But it’s because his life reads like a Victorian melodrama (or a Greek tragedy, as I’m sure Wilde would term it) that so many authors keep returning to his story. A plethora of new books are released about him each year (including a murder mystery series of novels from Gyles Brandreth that cast the Irish writer as a detective) but this is actually the first full biography since Richard Ellman’s brilliant ‘Oscar Wilde’ back in 1988. It’s a weighty tome that is more meticulous than Ellman’s book and is particularly good on Wilde’s early years, his ground-breaking US lecture tour, and his editorship of ‘The Woman’s World’ magazine. His disastrous relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas is fully detailed (and “Bosie” doesn’t come out any better here than he usually does) and the account of Wilde’s trials are both gripping and grim. What we’re left with is the impression of a deeply humane man who looked to explode Victorian hypocrisy but was ultimately undone by it.