Description

From the bestselling author of The Pale Blue Eye, Louis Bayard, comes Atonement meets The Paris Wife, a brilliantly original, profoundly empathetic story about Oscar Wilde's wife Constance and their two sons in the aftermath of the famous playwright's imprisonment for homosexuality, told against the backdrop of Victorian England and World War I.

In September of 1892, Oscar Wilde and his family retreated to the idyllic Norfolk countryside for a holiday. His wife, Constance, has every reason to be happy: two beautiful sons, a stellar reputation as an advocate for progressive causes, and a delightfully charming and affectionate husband and father, who is perhaps the most famous man in England. But as an assortment of houseguests arrive, including an aristocratic young wannabe poet named Lord Alfred Douglas, Constance gradually—and then all at once—comes to see that her husband's heart is elsewhere and that the growing intensity between the two men threatens the whole foundation of their lives.

The Wildes: A Novel in Five Acts revolves around that fateful summer: what happened, and what might have been. When it was exposed, Oscar's affair with Lord Alfred Douglas—Bosie, as he was known—led to Wilde's imprisonment for homosexuality, and the financial and emotional ruin of his family. In Act Two, Bayard reveals Constance and their sons, Cyril and Vyvyan, in exile, forced to sell their possessions, leave England, and hide their identities. Act Three, from the perspective of Cyril, brings readers into the French trenches of World War I, where Cyril must grapple with the kind of man he wants to become, while Act Four reveals Vyvyan in London, years after the war, searching for answers from those who knew his parents. And in a brilliant act of the imagination, Act Five brings the entire cast back together in a surprising, poignant, and tremendously satisfying tableau. 

With Louis Bayard's trademark sparkling dialogue, paired with his deep insight into the lives and longings of all his characters—and based on real events—The Wildes could almost have been created by Oscar Wilde himself: lightly told but with hidden depths, it is an entertaining and dramatic story about the human condition. 

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Praise

“In this witty, poignant, and richly imagined ‘novel in five acts,’ Louis Bayard takes us past the sordid scandal of Oscar Wilde and his nemesis-lover Bosie, the misbegotten libel trial that brought about Wilde’s ruin, and an aftermath of ‘dazzling martyrdom’ in repressive Victorian England, to focus instead on Wilde’s wife Constance and their sons Vyvyan and Cyril. The Wildes is a boldly audacious re-visioning of the martyrdom of Oscar Wilde, one which would have astonished Wilde himself.” —Joyce Carol Oates, award-winning poet and novelist
"Sad, funny, moving. The dialogue is so spiky and witty it would have made Oscar Wilde simmer with jealousy. Many of us know how Oscar’s and his family’s lives turn out, but such is the magic of Louis Bayard’s writing that we read on, hoping against hope that this time, their fates will be less tragic. An extremely enjoyable and rewarding read." —Tan Twan Eng, Booker-nominated author of The House of Doors
“Louis Bayard has outdone himself with this brilliant novel. The Wildes combines the best of Bayard’s trademark wit and charm with dialogue so sharp and masterful that Oscar Wilde himself could have written it. It transported me to a different time and made me laugh, gasp, and tear up. Bravo!” —Angie Kim, New York Times bestselling author of Happiness Falls
"Naughty, witty, and scandalous as a Wilde play—Oscar must be blushing in his grave." —James Hannaham, author of Didn't Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta
"It requires a novelist of great audacity to dare to attempt to bring Oscar Wilde back to life, and it requires a novelist of great skill, to say nothing of wit, to manage the feat persuasively. Happily, Louis Bayard is both of those novelists. As if that were not enough, The Wildes also presents us with a portrait of Oscar's wife, Constance, that is little short of breathtaking in its vibrant depth, and a recounting of the heartbreaking tragedy of the Wildes that is eloquent and fully compassionate to all its characters, certainly to the Wildes' sons, Cyril and Vyvyan, and even to (almost astonishingly) that feckless instrument of destruction Lord Alfred Douglas. I read The Wildes in an improbable state of breathless suspense, so wonderfully well has Bayard presented us with real people pressing, often excruciatingly, toward fateful decisions. This is an intoxicatingly gorgeous novel." —Benjamin Dreyer, New York Times bestselling author of Dreyer's English
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