25 February 2012

Book Review-Fyodor Dostoevsky

As a book reviewer for Book Sneeze (Thomas Nelson Publishers) I recently read Fyodor Dostoevsky by Peter Leithart. For most of my life I’ve been aware of Dostoevsky’s reputation as an author of great classics such as The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment, so I was excited to read about the man behind the reputation. I am a little uncertain, after reading this book, whether my admiration has been dampened by Mr. Dostoevsky’s actual personality, or by the author’s ability to portray that personality. The Fyodor I see in this biography seems to be a very self-centered and shallow person who occasionally looks outside of himself to care about others. He is shown to be a very driven individual, which I can well believe he was. His passionate nature was an asset as he strove, through his writings, to right the wrongs of the society he lived in, but it was a detriment where it concerned his personal relationships.

The most memorable moment in the book, for me, was when Dostoevsky lost his little daughter. As a new grandmother of a little girl of about the same age, the description of his grieving process was very touching.

My reaction to this book is mixed. I believe Dostoevsky’s life could have been portrayed in a more interesting manner than Peter Leithart has shown it. Though he has caused me to wonder whether I would find Dostoevsky’s novels interesting, I still plan to read the copy of The Brothers Karamazov that sits on my bookshelf. Perhaps I will find Dostoevsky’s style more captivating than Mr. Leithart’s.


  1. I have liked some things that Leithart has written, but it seems to me that the best biography of Dostoyevsky would have to be written by someone with a Russian or Orthodox understanding. I wonder if there is such a one.
    I have only completed one of F.D.'s novels, but recently when I decided to read The Brothers Karamozov again and finish it this time (my husband and I read 3/4 of it aloud together 20 yrs ago) I discovered the debate about which translation is best, and I think I want to read the one by Larissa Volokhonsky. Then it would be fascinating to read other translations. My, don't I have big ideas. Who translated the one you are going to read?

  2. Mine was translated by Andrew R. McAndrew, which tells me nothing!:) Did you like the story when you read it?