Brothers Karamazov: Thoughts

big_1409082380_1382454022_imageThe most surprising thing about this book is that I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. It is extremely readable and understandable. And, even more surprising, it’s funny. Ok, I mean parts are funny – it’s not like it’s a comedic book.

I think that one of the masterful things about art when done well is that there is depth to it. On the surface it might seem simple, but it has layers of complexity to it – if you choose to look at it that way. That’s what Dostoevsky does masterfully with this novel. On the surface it’s a story about a family and the relationship with the brothers and their father. You can read it that way and actually enjoy it. The thing that great artists do, and what Dostoyevsky is masterful at is people and how they work. He gets at the heart of how and why people operate as they do. You don’t feel like you are reading about people from 1890’s Russia – you could be reading about a family from any time or any place. The things he unearths are universal. It’s what makes Shakespeare classic, unveiling these universal truths about human beings.

Here is the thing that I appreciated, and I think what makes this readable and enjoyable: he doesn’t ram this stuff down your throat by spending hundreds of pages going on and on and on about a point (I’m looking at you Tolstoy). He weaves these lessons and ideas throughout the story like a thread. You don’t even notice that you are being taught.

I was watching some videos on Dostoyevsky and the Karamazov brothers and one thing that came up, was that Tolstoy is a sociologist and Dostoyveky is a psychologist. Hashtag mind blown.

Here is what surprised me most about this book, I would totally read it again. I think it’s one of the rare books, at least for me, that would get better with every reading. There are so many layers and nooks and crannies to figure out that I think you would definitely get more out of it each time you read it. I now have the answer to the question what book would you take with you if you were stranded on a desert island.

 

Brothers Karamazov: Epilogue – tying up loose ends

8202807482_d28fd5ec54_bAs much as I enjoyed the book, I was not looking for a verbose epilogue. And, I should have trusted Dostoyevsky in this regard, since he has been pretty good at pacing up until now.

In the final 25-ish pages we get (most of) the threads of the story tied up.

There is an elaborate plan in place to get Dmitry out of his prison sentence. He is going to escape from the march to Siberia. There is a whole thing where he is going to escape to America, not to live there but to become “American” then return to Russia as an immigrant. This will allow him, and Grushenka to live without the pall of his sentence and his past hanging over him. Good luck with that.

The book also ends on an interesting note. The sick child from earlier in the book has died. And they are going to bury him. Aloysha makes a speech to the young boys about how to live life and not to forget the friends that they have made, and to go and live life to the fullest.

Ah, my children, my dear friends, don’t be afraid of life! How good life is when one does something noble and true!

This is obviously a message to the reader. Go! Embrace life and (basically) try not to be a jerk. I think that was about the right note to end the book on.

I think it’s going to take me a bit to absorb the book and reflect. Stay tuned for my thoughts.

Brothers Karamazov: The End….not quite

upcomingSo we have come to the end of the regularly schedule part of the Brothers Karamazov. There is an epilogue…but I am counting the book technically finished.

So this last part was the murder trial of Dmitry. It is the OJ Simpson trial of 1870’s Russia. Because the Karamazov’s are a high profile family and it’s a murder trial of a father, this is getting high attention from literally everyone. Also, the added drama of the spurned lover (Katarina) who will be in the same room as the woman Dmitry left her for (Grushenka) and the fact that Grushenka was an alleged paramour of Dmitry’s father. VERY high drama.

I am not going to go through the whole thing, you can read the book if you want that kind of detail.

One thing that Dostoyevsky does well is showing what a spectacle this trial is. He has scenes where those attending the trial are chatting – and it’s obvious they are there for the gossip and for the drama. As an invested reader and observer, you are like…HEY! This is a murder trial. Be a bit more sympathetic. But I think that’s the point D. is trying to make. This is entertainment for people. What makes this impressive is that it’s as true today as it was back then. People are people.

The other thing that I found interesting is that as the reader, we know what happened. We know who killed the father and all of the other things around it. We have been inside Dmitry’s mind and know what he was thinking. But as we progress in the trial, we see how the facts, “facts” are turned around and each side uses them to their advantage. What the prosecution says isn’t untrue, it’s just not the entire truth. So this is an inside look at how facts are distorted.

There is a very interesting part near the end of the chapter where the defence attorney is talking about fathers and what makes a father – that’s it’s not just sharing a DNA that makes someone a father. And he goes on to explain how the lack of that influence on a child, especially a son, can have a negative effect. I think this is the crux of the book – or one of them (can you have multiple cruxes?) – which is, how much does a father’s love and attention, or lack thereof, influence his children?

Well, it’s on to the epilogue….then we are done.

 

Brothers Karamazov, Book Eleven: Non-Stop Action

downloadWe are getting pretty close to the end of the book, I think this was the second-to-last section (excluding the epilogue). Holy cow! Dostoyevsky basically threw all the action in this section, and the kitchen sink.

Everyone is getting ready for the trial of Dimitry – and most people are in high states of agitation about it. Ivan is back and apparently has been back for a while. He was plotting with Katherine to break Dimitry out of prison and hide him away. Dimitry and Grushekna are still together, however they are having a bit of a love/hate relationship (no one here finds this surprising).

The very interesting thing that Dostoyevsky does in this section is basically ties up a lot of loose ends by having all the characters visit each other. You find out what’s been happening during the two-ish months that have passed since Dimitry was arrested. There is no exposition, it’s all conversations and action.

We find out that Ivan is really sick and is basically going (or gone) insane. He ends up visiting Smerdakov a bunch of times – who is the “faithful” servant of the Karamazov family. Smerdakov is cagey and toys with Ivan, sensing his illness. He basically bats him around like a cat with a mouse. Over the visits S. tries to convince Ivan that IF he were to have murdered his father, then it was basically Ivan’s doing – because Ivan wanted it done. In the last meeting of the two, S. completely confesses to the murder. Up to that point Ivan wasn’t sure if Dimitry did it or not.

So we are merrily reading along to Ivan having a crazy chat with a hallucination of his inner-self……when….<insert dramatic music here>

We find out that Smerdakov killed himself.

What? No one was expecting that.

Truthfully I have no idea what is going to happen in the last section.

The Brothers Karamazov, Book Ten: A boy and his dog

MV5BMmMwNGY0OGItYzg5MS00OGY5LWJkMTYtZmVhMjczMmJkMmVjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzU1NzE3NTg@._V1_CR0,45,480,270_AL_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_So we are moving along in the story. Dimitry was being questioned about the MURDER of his father and then we get to the next book where….wait what? We seem to be taking a step back in the action.

A while back in the book, some kid bit Alyosha’s finger – well he (Ilyusha) and Alyosha are back, along with the kid who got stabbed in the leg with a knife (Kolya). With all the other stuff going on in the book this seems somewhat random. However, it can’t be, right?

I think this section is about a bunch of things, one is forgiveness. Alyosha worked at getting Kolya to visit the sick boy because the two boys had a falling out. It was kind of a Mean Girls situation, but with 1800’s Russian schoolboys. Kolya brings his dog with him that does a bunch of tricks – that delight all of the people assembled, especially Ilyusha (the sick boy). Kolya realizes that he might have been a bit harsh in freezing out the sick boy from his circle of friends. Also, Aloysha basically rallys the kids around the bedside, after they all were pretty mean to him.

The other interesting thing about this section is that the young rascal Kolya has some pretty strong views on politics and the world. He proclaims himself as a “socialist” and has a conversation with his friend, Smurov:

‘There’s nothing funny about it, it’s just you don’t understand it. Nothing in nature’s funny, however it may seem to man, with his prejudices. If dogs could reason and criticize, I’m sure they’d find plenty that would seem funny to them, to say the least, in the social relationships between people, their masters—even more than funny, I should say, because I’m firmly convinced that we’re by far the more foolish. That’s an idea of Rakitin’s, a remarkable idea. I’m a socialist, Smurov.’ ‘What’s a socialist?’ asked Smurov. ‘It’s when everyone’s equal, all goods are owned in common, there’s no marriage, and religion and all the laws are whatever anyone fancies, and so on and so forth. You’re still too young for that, you’re not old enough.

It seems to me that Dostoyevsky is sorta mocking this line of thinking. There is a push-pull in the book between forward progress and ideas and old-school thinking. I think by having a 14 year old boy the the poster child for the progressive view, Dostoyevsky shows that he doesn’t think very highly of it.

As an aside, there was a little line that cracked me up:

Whenever he met another dog, they would indulge in unusually enthusiastic mutual sniffing, in accordance with all the rules of canine social etiquette.

This is totally true, right? It made me chuckle.

On to the next part!

 

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

22450859I took a trip (practicing highway driving) to the local Books a Million (bookstores here are not as plentiful as they were back in Toronto). This book was on sale and I was like….boom. Or BAM since I was in Books a Million (see what I did there).

I was a huge fan of The Red Tent (Diamant’s first book) so I wanted to check this out. Obviously the time period was different: biblical times vs. 1900’s Boston. However, the subject matter was similar, in a way.

Obviously this book is about a “Boston Girl”. It’s the story of Addie Baum. She is the daughter of Jewish immigrants, and the only one of her siblings to be born in America. The story is told from Addie’s point of view – as she is telling her life story to her granddaughter.

Addie is sassy and smart and funny. I really felt for her and the hardships that she faced throughout her life. This book really struck home to me how much different things were, not that long ago.

I guess this is a coming of age story, but it’s more than that. How does your heritage form your growth and development? How does family do that? I think that the author did a good job of posing those questions.

This book is also about female empowerment. In a lot of ways Addie is a trailblazer: from wanting to have an education, not being obsessed with getting a husband, and wanting to make her own life. This is also about the power of friendships – those people who are close to us proximity-wise, and those friends who aren’t, but are just as close and important to us.

If you are going to read this expecting The Red Tent, you are going to be disappointed. But if you want an interesting and engaging read, and want to meet a sassy and funny lady, then this is for you.

I rated this 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

Book Review Catch Up: 3 for 1

I got a bit behind in my blogging and book reviewing. You know, life got in the way. But, I am back baby!

I thought I would do a few posts with some mini-reviews of the books that I read over the summer.

immortThe Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

I picked this book up on my first foray to the local library. It got a lot of press and was on a bunch of ‘must read’ lists for the summer. So I figured, why not.

The story is about Gold family, who live in New York City. When they were kids, the 4 Gold children hear about a travelling psyhcic who claims to be able to tell you the date you will die. They go and visit. They don’t really talk about it. Naturally they are skeptical.

This story is about what happens when you know when your last day on earth will be. Will you live life to the fullest? Will you buy into the date and make sure it’s your last day?

I liked this book. It definitely kept me guessing as to what was going to happen next. It was a bit sad, I mean, the book basically deals with the imminent death of the characters. However, it was well written and engaging.

I rated it 4/5 stars on Goodreads.


mansell

The One You Really Want by Jill Mansell

As my husband says, this was what was advertised on the tin. When you pick up a Jill Mansell book you are looking for an easy and fun read. This is what you get here.

For me, it ended up being about friendships – unlikely friendships – and how important it is to have a support system.

It was fun and entertaining. If you are looking for light and fun, this is a read for you.

I  rated it 3/5 stars on Goodreads.


wolitzerThe Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

I had read another novel of hers, The Interestings, and enjoyed it. So I thought I would pick this one up at the local library. Also, there was a lot..A LOT of press and stuff about this when it was released.

So I struggled a bit with this book. I mean, I liked it. I think that it was an interesting premise. But somehow I felt sort of manipulated by the plot. I don’t really know how to explain it other than that.

The book is about what it means to be a feminist, about the dangers of idolizing people and how to find your way in the world. There were parts that were insightful. But there were parts that seemed typical.

I think it’s worth a read.

I rated this 4/5 stars on Goodreads.