“Conversations with Oscar Wilde: A Fictional Dialogue Based on Biographical Facts” by Merline Holland

Genre:       Fictional Biographies & Memoirs/Historical Fiction Conversatons Oscar Wilde
Publisher: Watkins Publishing
Pub. Date: June 11, 2019

This story is one in a series regarding other imagined conversations with legendary people.  The infamous Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (1854-1900) is easily one of the most paramount playwrights of the Victorian age.   This novel was originally published under the title “Coffee with Oscar Wilde.”  No matter the name, what a treat to review this clever novel about a fictional conversation with Oscar Wilde over coffee and a cigarette.  The premise of the tale is that Wilde is being interviewed by an unnamed interviewer.  What makes this book so clever is that he is being interviewed in the present.  The author never explains how this phenomenon happens.  Still, much fun to read Wilde’s possible views on histories’ take on him.  Or how appalled Wilde might be to learn that smoking is now frowned upon.  “A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure.”― Oscar Wilde, “The Picture of Dorian Gray

The novel is set in Paris, where he fled once released from prison after the scandalous trial that revealed his homosexuality.   During the trial, he was actually accused of literally being his character Dorian, who never ages, from his novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”  The story comes so close to spelling out homosexual desire.  In Holland’s book, the author is at his wittiest, channeling Wilde’s feelings about the trial.   He does a wonderful job of showing Wilde’s misjudgment on what would be the trial’s outcome.  After all, at that time in his life, Oscar was the darling of upper-class society.

In the book’s prologue, the author explains that he did not cut out Wilde’s quotes and sew them back together.  He feared that would become a book of one-liners.  Instead, he wrote Wilde-like flavored interview answers.  Holland did this by heavily researching Wilde’s works and letters.   The result feels fresh.  This book is a fast (under 200 pages) and delightful read. However, it is easy to imagine that if you are familiar with all the aspects of Wilde’s life then the novel may not be as impressive.   Personally,  this reviewer was surprised to learn that Oscar was married and had two children.   Reading about the close relationship he had with his mother, and the lover who caused his downfall was new to me.  I was so impressed with this concept of a fictional memoir that I hope to read “Conversations with Mozart” by Simon Parke.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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