Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky [1880]

"You know boys," Alyosha said, "You needn't be afraid of life! Life is so good when you do something that is good and just."

Whew! What a crazy book! And I mean that in the best possible way, because I really enjoyed it. While not fast paced, The Brothers Karamazov is hardly ever boring, and there's kind of a subtle tension carried throughout the book. The characters are also very interesting and complicated.
That having been said, I wouldn't say that this book is perfect.
My first and foremost problem with the book isn't really the author's fault. I found the ending, while satisfying and very moving, a little open-ended. Fyodor Dostoevsky was planning on this book being the first in a trilogy about the youngest Karamazov brother, Alyosha (poor Alyosha). Unfortunately, he died before he could even start the second one. So it's not really his fault that some aspects of the book are left open ended.

Also, this book is full of rambling. The characters in this book love to talk. This is mostly fine because most of the time it's very interesting. But there are a few instances where it just got plain redundant. Like the chapter The Grand Inquisitor. That's the most famous chapter of the novel, but I found it turgid and rather [dare I tick off the literature professors?] a hinder to the flow of the story.. Ivan (poor Ivan) is not much of a poet, that's for sure. And there's the Prosecutor's speech in the courtroom. My main issues with the courtroom sequence was that most of the stuff being discussed was stuff we had already heard being discussed before.

Aside from all that, I really liked it! It's not really a fun book though. I mean, even Les Miserables had plenty of moments of brevity and light heartedness. This book is pretty much doom and gloom except for a few scenes with Elder Zosima (Think Russian Bishop Myriel) and the very end. It kind of got to be too much at times. I would recommend having something easy and lighthearted handy if you want to read this.

I was a little surprised by some of the characters, and by that I mean I was surprised by Alyosha. Alyosha (that's short for Alexei) is the youngest Karamazov brother and is a novice at the local Monastery. In the little chapter about little kid Alyosha, I kind of pegged him for being one of those bland, pure hearted heroes who never does anything wrong or has moments of doubt (Think Despereaux from the atrocious Tale of Despereaux movie adaptation). But he surprised me by being an interesting character with a good story arc. He's very saintly and kind, but it's pulled off in a good way. The other brothers are also very interesting and their story arcs don't go where you expect them to from the beginning. Except Smerdyakov, he's kind of exactly who he looks like. I liked Dmitry (or 'Mitya'), he was quite complicated and, despite his many faults, was a likeable character. Ivan was probably the most complicated character, and even though he wasn't a terribly likeable person I still felt a little bad for him in the end. I haven't even started to cover all the other characters in the book, but they were pretty cool. I liked Gregory, the Karamazov's housekeeper.

The Verdict: A
It took me a super long time to get this review off the ground! I guess I could blame that on my French homework (Oui! Je suis une etudiante a l'universite! Ma prof est tres sympa. :). The thing is, I don't really know why I like this book so much, but it clicked with me for whatever reason. And the reasons why a book clicks with you aren't always easy to explain. I really enjoyed seeing the various character's story arcs unfolding, and even being totally surprised by a few of them (Alyosha, Ivan, and Grushenka really surprised me with how they developed). This book made me think, and I love reading books that I sometimes have to put down and think about for a while. And the ending was very hopeful and optimistic. I may not be an optimistic person myself, but I appreciate true optimism (as opposed to just being fluffy and blind to evil) in stories.

Age Appropriateness: There is some language in this book. None of it is seriously bad (though there is one instance of something really nasty being implied but not actually spoken), but it might bug some people. There are also some rather disturbing scenes and subject matter, just a heads up.

1 comment:

  1. This one's on my to-read list, so I'm really impressed that you've read it! Also, I love that you just compared Dostoevsky to Desperaux :-) Cracked me up!


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