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Dostoevsky in Rare Form

Peter Leithart has written an imminently readable and entertaining biography of one of Russia's greatest fiction writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Written in the form of a dialogue between Dostoevsky and a friend, this book winds through history, Dostoevsky's influnces, family life, and personality. What you find as begin to read the book is rare book that is able to inform while also keep you interested.

Leithart, being well acquainted with theology and literature writes early on that Dostoevsky was early on encouraged to read the Bible through a book of gospel stories (7). Growing up with a strict father and a gentle mother, Fyodor enjoyed playing in the fields alongside the great privlege of listening to stories. Leithart mentions that Fyodor's father was adamant about passing on the Orthodox faith to his children. Early on Leithart writes, "Fyodor loved the evenings, after dinner, when Dr. Dostoevsky would take out one of Ann Radcliffe's haunting tales that made Fyodor's hair stand on end" (7). Being captivated by literature was an early sign that Fyodor would take up writing as a profession.

Dostoevsky's first novek, Poor Folk was a graphic glimpse into the lives of those living on the edge of despair. Getting into the character's minds and experiences was part and parcel of Dostoevsky's way with words. Leithart writes, "I do not want anyone to laugh. I want them to see the humanity of these people they they ignore and despise every day" (20). From the very beginning, Fyodor was not willing to cover over the grotesque, the inhumane and those who suffered greatly for the sake of literary prominence.

Leithart tells about the time when Dostoevsky was lined up to be killed with the other prisoners with great detail. This part in Dostoevsky's life was a turning point, only to 'be sent to the living death in Siberia' (39). His experiences in the labor camp in Siberia was another glimpse into the harships of Dostoevsky's life, but also the experiences that come out in his work (House of the Dead).

Leithart has done a great service to all those interested in the life and writings of the great novelist Dostoevsky. By writing about both Dostoevsky's reluctance for Russia to be overhauled by the West and his insistent nature to have Christ be present in his life, many will take great encouargement from this work. Lastly, you see in this work a picture of a broken man trying to put life back together with the help of his pen and the hope of a suffering servant. Overall. I think this book is a great leaping off point to the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky. I hope that this book causes readers to read again the great works of Dostoevsky.

Thanks to the Book Sneeze program and Thomas Nelson for providing a free review copy to me.


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