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A House of PomegranatesA House of Pomegranates by Oscar Wilde

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Life is one fool thing after another whereas love is two fool things after each other.”    

Oscar Wilde might just be the greatest fiction writer of all time. Having said that, it’s a pity there are so few of his works. He certainly has a very special place in my heart, and this collection of beautiful children’s stories show just how talented he really was. Wilde is famous for his ‘epigrams’ and his razor-sharp wit. His command of the English language made him a literary trend-setter. Yet these innocent fables allow people to see a lesser-known side of him, a more human side; a glimpse of the ‘mortal’.

As mercurial and glamorous as he was (or made himself out to be), the work he produced here for younger audiences stands as a homage for ancient story-telling that reaches out to the likes of Hans Christian Anderson or the Brother’s Grimm. In fact these aren’t mere stories, but rather ‘fables’, and unfortunately fables are an almost extinct form of story-telling these days. When people think of Oscar Wilde, no one ever thinks of morals, yet these tales each hold a deep moral lesson.

The ‘Star Child’ is rather like ‘Dorian Gray‘ re-worked for children, in that it warns them of the dangers of vanity and to respect ones’ elders. The ‘Mermaids Soul’ explores the rather complex issue of the soul, or rather the difference of making decisions with your head or your senses, and how one must have a little of both facilities in, otherwise chaos ensues. The most famous of this bunch is probably ‘The Happy Prince‘, who when I first read it many moons ago mistook it for an Andersen fable.

My favourite, ‘The Infanta’, is about innocent ignorance, class-divide, love and mercy. It teaches us NOT to judge by appearances, and to accept people as they are. Wilde was famed as an aesthete, yet in all his stories there is a very firm dislike of artifice, and a reverence of the beauty of the soul as opposed to the flesh. Even though this is blatantly obvious in his writing, people still insist on ignoring it, which is sad. Judging by these stories (and stories are a window to the soul) I think Wilde was a deeply moral man whose choices in life must have pained him given the social/ cultural atmosphere of the time.

This collection would make a wonderful gift for any child. I read the Gutenberg e-book version, which unfortunately didn’t have the titles, but rather interestingly had a dedication at the beginning of each story telling the reader who it was written for. I think ‘The House of Pomegranates’ is a real gem of a book. I’m glad I rediscovered it this year. It is absolute story perfection.

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