The Wildes

A Novel in Five Acts

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By Louis Bayard

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In this singularly powerful novel, bestselling author Louis Bayard brings Oscar Wilde’s wife Constance and two sons out from the shadows of history and creates a vivid and poignant story of secrets, loss, and love.
 
In September of 1892, Oscar Wilde and his family have retreated to the idyllic Norfolk countryside for a holiday. His wife, Constance, has every reason to be happy: two beautiful sons, her own work as an advocate for feminist causes, and a delightfully charming and affectionate husband and father to her children, who also happens to be the most sought-after author in England. But with the arrival of an unexpected houseguest, the aristocratic young poet 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 takes readers on the emotional journey of this family, moving from the Italian countryside, where Constance Wilde flees from the aftermath of Oscar’s imprisonment for homosexuality, to the trenches of World War I and an underground bar in London’s Soho, where Oscar’s sons Cyril and Vyvyan must both grapple with their father’s legacy. And in a brilliant feat of the imagination, act 5 reunites the entire cast in a surprising, poignant, and tremendously satisfying tableau.
 
With Louis Bayard’s trademark sparkling dialogue and deep insight into the lives and longings of all his characters, 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.

  • “bittersweet tragicomedy. Bayard turns the Wilde family’s tragedy into an engrossing, eternally relevant fable of fame, scandal, and love.”
    Kirkus Reviews / Starred Review
  • "What was lost to history Louis Bayard has brilliantly brought to life: the wit, charm, tragedy and tenderness of Wilde's family. Wonderfully researched, beautifully crafted, movingly told, The Wildes is a treasure to read."
    Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less and Less Is Lost
  • “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
  • "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
  • “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
  • "Wide-ranging, sharp-edged, and generous-hearted, Louis Bayard's reimagination of the story of Oscar Wilde brings his wife and sons into the spotlight, rescuing them from their historical position as peripheral characters and inviting us to see them for the first time, and through them, to see Wilde. I was drawn in, deeply entertained, and very moved."
    Mark Harris, New York Times-bestselling author of Mike Nichols: A Life
  • "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
  • “Louis Bayard brings his singular historical imagination to this moving, multifaceted portrait of Oscar Wilde's family. The Wildes is a marvel of tenderness, irony, heartbreak, and reclamation that demonstrates why Bayard is among the most essential—and most entertaining—interrogators of the past.”
    Anthony Marra, author of Mercury Pictures Presents and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
  • "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
  • “inspired outing. Bayard’s superior gifts at evoking the past are on full display, and he makes it easy for readers to sympathize with his characters. Historical fiction fans will love this poignant tale.”
    Publishers Weekly

On Sale
Sep 17, 2024
Page Count
304 pages
Publisher
Algonquin Books
ISBN-13
9781643755304

Louis Bayard

Louis Bayard

About the Author

Louis Bayard is the critically acclaimed bestselling author of nine historical novels, including Jackie & Me and The Pale Blue Eye, which was adapted into the global #1 Netflix release starring Christian Bale. His articles, reviews, and recaps have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Salon, and the Paris Review. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Learn more about this author