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Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde Paperback – 2 Feb 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (2 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848541643
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848541641
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 259,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Praise for Desperate Romantics Franny Moyle's book on the Pre-Raphaelites:

'An utterly gripping read'

(Sunday Express)

'Riveting' (Independent on Sunday)

Moyle's book captures all the sex, madness and addiction, making modern-day sagas seem downright dull! (Glamour)

Constance Wilde is the subject of one of this year's most heartbreaking biographies...Moyle vindicates a remarkble and courageous woman whose loyalty to her husband was unfailing. While focusing on Constance, the book sheds new light on Wilde as a fond, endearing and surprisingly domesticated family man (Sunday Times, Books of the Year)

Book Description

The fascinating story of the decadent and thrilling world of Oscar Wilde's wife Constance, and the world of scandal which would betray her

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 3 July 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have to admit that I knew very little about Constance Wilde before reading this book, other than, of course, that she was Oscar Wilde's wife. However, I came to appreciate her as a strong woman, who did suffer but who always tried to do the right thing and fought hard to protect her sons.

Constance had a difficult upbringing. Her brother Otho, who she adored, was older than her and she was left with a widowed mother who both verbally and physically abused her. When her mother re-married, Constance went to live with her fathers family, but her early experiences made her withdrawn and shy. Oscar Wilde's family knew hers in Ireland, and so the connection was there from a young age. Constance idolised Oscar, although it is telling that letters from Constance to Otho crossed each other - Constance announcing her engagement at the same time that Otho attempted to warn her about a 'worrying story' he had heard. So, even in those very early days, alarm bells may have been sounding that Oscar may not have been the "ideal husband", although Constance refused to listen to the story and so we can only imagine what warning Otho wished to give.

By this point though, Constance was beyond any warnings or worries and marriage led to her being more outlandish, while Oscar became more conventional. She seemed to gain confidence and took up causes and a new social life with enthusiasm. Constance was a great believer in women wearing more sensible clothing and she was seen as fashionable, although sometimes too daring in her dress. Early marriage was passionate and Constance was expecting her first baby only six months after moving into their new home.
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Format: Hardcover
I rarely read biographies, and picked this up out of curiosity and out of a lifelong interest in Oscar Wilde. Despite the title, I expected the story to be less about Constance than about Oscar, who's obviously the more noteworthy and fascinating character. To my mind she'd always been just "the wife" - a woman of no (or at least little) importance. And yet I came away from the book with a deep admiration and respect for Constance, and a wish that her short, sad life could have been different. It wasn't all sad of course - there were years of great joy, but they were bookended by an unhappy childhood and the misery, scandal, and shame that followed Oscar's downfall.
Constance was a woman of her time, limited in the interests and activities she could take part in if she wanted to be "respectable." Yet it's clear that Constance desperately wanted to be useful, for her life to have substance and meaning. She pursued this to the best of her ability - writing journalism and children's books, speaking on topics such as rational dress and women's health, studying interior design and photography and other artistic pursuits, campaigning for reform on many issues. Though she was nowhere near as notorious a figure as Oscar, she achieved fame in her own way - for her daring and unconventional outfits, her cultivation of writers and artists, and her public speaking. She was highly intelligent, studious, and a great linguist. Franny Moyle does a beautiful job of conveying the way Constance grows in confidence and ambition, going from a shy and painfully insecure young girl to an acknowledged beauty and one of the most famous women in London. She's flawed, certainly.
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Format: Hardcover
I didn't even know I was interested in this subject before I started reading it because I heard it on Radio 4. The book was beautifully written and I finished it in two sittings. I have now lent it to three people who have all enjoyed it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are many biographies of Oscar Wilde but this is the only one, of which I am aware, about his long suffering, intelligent and feisty wife; the woman he turned to when he needed tlc and a haven from his troubles but whom he eventually fatally let down.
This is an interesting and educational book covering the wide range of Constance's interests from the Pre-Raphaelites to early feminism and women in politics.
I would recommend it , especially to book clubs, which is where I came across it as the monthly book at my U3A book club
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By Anne TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Feb. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Even in the picture on the front of this book Oscar Wilde is larger than his wife Constance - this was the story of her life from when she married the writer to her early death. Constance was, in fact, an intelligent young woman with her own literary aspirations and plenty of modern ideas. In this excellent and readable biography the author tells us about her views and her interests and then shows us the implications for Constance and her sons of Oscar's seeming self-destruction. Because of its effect on Constance the book does have to dwell quite a lot on Oscar's life, court case and prison sentence but seeing it from her point of view Oscar doesn't always come over as the victim and quite often he seems to bring many of his troubles upon himself.

You cannot help but admire Constance when you see what she had to go through - the public ignominy, poverty, derision from Oscar's friends many of whom were jealous of her, and in the end his rejection of her. Despite the author's best efforts Oscar still looms large in this book but we do come to see Constance in her own right and cannot help but wonder what her life and achievements might have been had she loved elsewhere.

This is an engaging read with lots of good background material about the social conventions of the day and the laws that inhibited Oscar and caused his issues. In the end I think that the author's portrayal of the flawed genius that was Oscar was bound to overshadow his wife about whom less is inevitably known but I think that this book does an excellent job of redressing the balance.
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