First of all, how awesome is this copy of The Idiot? Super awesome, I know. I snatched it from the boyfriend. Dostoevsky never lets me down.
Prince Lev Nikolayevitch Myshkin returns to Russia after years of treatment for his disease of "idiocy" in Switzerland. He makes a friend on the train who talks passionately about his love for Nastassya Filippovna. Myshkin searches for his nearest relatives, the Yepanchins. They have three lovely daughters, the youngest, Aglaya, the loveliest of all. Despite being labeled as an idiot, Myshkin makes a good impression on everyone he meets and seems to speak his mind honestly and without regard for social norms.
"And what made me take you for an idiot before? You notice things other people never notice. One could really talk to you, but - one had better not."
There is a scandal involving Nastassya Filippovna, a "fallen woman" who everyone seems to want to marry. Myskin himself is so taken with her beauty that when he meets her he pleads with her not to marry Ganya.
This novel is told in four parts. The first introduces us to a wide range of characters, the second reconciles Myshkin with the Yepanchins, the third has some romantic intrigue between Myshkin and Aglaya and an attempted suicide by one of the characters, and the fourth brings about the inevitable clash between Aglaya and Nastassya over Myshkin.
"But all this had flown from his mind, everything except the one fact that she was sitting there beside him and that he was looking at her, and it made no difference to him then what she was talking about."
These characters are so complicated that I feel hard-pressed to sum them up in a few lines. Nastassya views herself as a person with a most shameful past and constantly runs between Myshkin and her other suitor, Rogozhin. She is the ultimate drama-queen ex girlfriend bent on her own destruction. Myshkin sees the good in everyone and can not hold a grudge to save his life (or sanity). Despite his honest love for Aglaya, he cannot lie about his sympathy for Nastassya.
"And how can he love two women? With two different kinds of love?"
The writing is just amazing in my opinion. For an author to have a character say "I don't love you" and without any explanation the reader knows that she is absolutely in love with the other is a feat. Dostoevsky paints the characters so well that we know what is going on in their minds.
"But in later years the general never complained about his early marriage, never attributed it to the rash folly of youth and he so respected his wife, and at times so feared her, that he actually, in face, loved her."
Thank you for voting for this one! I adored it. I put another poll up for my next big read - so be sure to vote! At the moment I have a couple of lighter books going, Shanghai Girls by Lisa See and Pyramids by Terry Pratchett.