Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Brothers Karamazov: Wrap-up

"It's all so strange, Karamazov, such grief, and then pancakes all of a sudden."

It is with great satisfaction that I have just clicked "read" for The Brothers Karamozov on my Goodreads account.  This book has been my faithful companion for the majority of April.  It has been with me to piano lessons, karate, the dentist's office, the hospital, Disneyland, Hometown Buffet, various parking lots, and even through the making of about 6,000 copies for my daughter's school.  I have read it while eating, biking (stationary, of course) and during those few minutes in bed at night when I inevitably fall asleep too quickly!  It has eaten up most of any leisure time I had this month (with the exception of watching some of Gilmore Girls Season 2 with one of my girls, but, hey--if your teenager actually deigns to engage in an activity with you, YOU DO IT.  Even if it involves setting aside some heavy-duty Russian Lit).

I looked into the audio version at one point, feeling the pressures of time as this was a group read, and discovered that this is 34 hours of reading material.  (War and Peace-56, Les Miserables-57.  So what am I complaining about?  BK is a novella by comparison).  Ultimately, I wasn't going to be able to get anything audio in a timely manner, so I scrapped that idea and resorted to reading in a manner that burns less calories.

Perhaps the hardest part was accepting this as almost the only book I read this month.  Yes, I had to give up my philandering ways, stop playing the field, and commit to a relationship with just one book.  Tiger, I think I get you now.  All is forgiven.

So it is with gratitude that I can now proclaim:

I loved it!

Thank goodness.  The story of three (or four) very different brothers, their detestable father who ends up murdered, a couple of histrionic women for them to fight over, and a dying priest all comes together like some sort of a high-brow soap opera from which you leave feeling like you've listened to a soul-stirring sermon.  Seriously, how often will you find a book like that?  Yes, I did come to fear the phenomenon of the four-page paragraph (Is there such a thing as post-traumatic stress from turning the page and seeing NO INDENTATIONS?)  But I did quickly get used to each character going by four or five different names.  I feel in some way I have kept Alzheimer's at bay with this novel brain exercise.  And whenever I was in danger of extreme boredom during the long religious discussions, I would come upon a thought that struck me, and this would happen again and again.  I feel like I need to make a little notebook just for quotes from this novel.  I could easily pull together my own sermon now, and it would be pretty darn good.

Because this was a group read, I feel as though I ought to discuss more of the details of the last portion of the book, but frankly I'm afraid to.  There is so much I don't think I would know where to stop.  At one point the narrator says, "I keep thinking that if one were to recall everything and explain everything as one ought, it would fill a whole book, even quite a large one."  Aside from the irony of that statement, that's how I feel right now.  Discussions could go on about this book indefinitely.  For now I will go check out what others from the readalong have to say.  Their thoughts, which are generally much more intellectual and in-depth than my own (I so appreciate them), should be found here. Thank you Dolce Bellezza for putting this together.  It made the reading even more enjoyable than it would have been on my own.

One last delightful quote from Mitya (or Dmitri, or Mitka, or Mitenka--take your pick):

"Rakitin says it's possible to love mankind even without God.  Well, only a snotty little shrimp can affirm such a thing, but I can't understand it."

The Brothers Karamazov
By Fyodor Dostoevsky
Originally published in 1880
Translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky 2002
776 pages
Personal Enjoyment Factor:  4.5/5


  1. I know! On one website, the blogger had read 23 books. I can't even do that in a normal month. But this month? No way.

  2. I'm so relieved to come to your conclusion: I loved it! I was a bit worried, reading through your post, that that wouldn't be the case, and in such an instance, reading only one novel would be a sorry shame. (I haven't read many this month, either, because while BK may be a novella it's still almost 800 pages. ;)

    The quote that you ended with is one of the ones I noted as well, it's a perfect summary of Dostoevsky's faith, I think. Briefer than all those endless pages with the Grand Inquisitor, and therefore more effective.

    Thanks so much for reading along. It's the first read-along I've hosted, and I know that it really helped me to read everyone's thoughts and opinions. Especially on such a weighty tome.

    I love the image of you and your daughter watching Gilmore Girls; I never watch tv, but you're so right about when a teen deigns to do anything with you, do it!

  3. Pickygirl - 23 books in one month? In my dreams, maybe! And definitely not with anything Russian.

    Dolce Bellezza - "Brevity is the soul of wit." Is that the line from Hamlet? Dostoevsky is really good at throwing in some really good one-liners. It makes one wonder why he felt the need to include the lengthier discourses. Thanks for hosting!

  4. I am not reading these reviews in detail as I haven't read and already know I want to read this one, but in general terms, I am happy to know that you enjoyed this! I do love those Russian authors :-)

  5. Congrats to you! And I'm glad it was worth the long haul and the four page paragraphs (YIKES.) I'm going to give this a go at some point but now I think I'll block out the time for it that it seems to need and won't be afraid of it as much.

    Now go read a nice light book!

  6. This has been on my TBR list for a long time. So glad you loved it!

  7. Yay! So glad you enjoyed it so much :-) I haven't read it but Dostoevsky is a favorite.

  8. Shelley, I'm so glad I discovered your blog! I haven't read any Doestoevsky yet but your blog made me laugh out loud -- I know what it's like to commit to a long book (last summer I read An American Tragedy and David Copperfield. Whew!) Can't wait to explore your blog and read more reviews. And I promise The Brothers K will move up on my to-read list.

  9. This book has been on my TBR list for years. Thanks for giving me a push by assuring me it will be worth it! Maybe this is the year.

    (Not looking forward to those 4-page paragraphs, though.)