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Customer Review

on 20 July 2009
I read Crime and Punishment a few years ago and really enjoyed that, so, after a trip to Russia and a few conversations about Dostoevsky, I decided to have a go at a few more of his books. This one, meant to be his greatest (and certainly his last!), nearly put an end to my campaign to read all his stuff.

Basically, I read the first 2-300 pages with great interest. It is easy to read, but that can occasionally make you breeze thru some of the more deep thoughts in the book without realizing, and things were going well. But, I wasn't fully concentrating on the book as I was also reading one or two other things, and, after a while, this book was relegated to being a 'bog book'!

My advice is - don't do that! Don't pick it up, read a few pages whilst you're about your business and then set it down. What happens is that you get into some long speech or discourse that becomes deeply boring and frustrating when you find that after many toilet sessions you are no nearer the end. You also lose the pace and atmosphere reading it this way.

So what happened what that after 6 months of reading I'd got thru about 450 pages and was very frustrated with it. I began to get suspicious of all the praise it gets, because some people, like a few reviewers even here, give you the impression that they're merely repeating heavy praise so as not to look stupid by not appreciating it. Just read thru the other reviews and see how many people referenced the grand Sigmund Freud quote on the back cover!

And so I gave up. But then I had a holiday, and in 10 days of that holiday I blasted thru the remaining 530 pages or so and was very glad that I did. It is worth it.

Dostoevsky writes dialogue very well, develops characters brilliantly and can crank up suspense very tightly. He brings out all kinds of subtleties in behaviour and thought that you marvel at and he has a strong sense of humour.

The translation is clean and uncluttered, and Avsey provides helpful notes, charts and even a list of principal characters with all their different and confusing names (Dmitry is also called Mitya and Mitenka and so on).

So...yes it is long and yes there are long speeches and philosophical musings! It is hard work in places, but it is also very worth while and Dostoevsky has the ability to create powerful scenes that do not easily leave your mind afterwards.

My advice is - this is a 'great' novel, and is best enjoyed when given your full attention. Maybe a long, boring journey or like holiday!
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