The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Hovel Audio, read by Simon Vance, abridged by Thomas R. Beyer)

I normally don't care for abridged versions of books, but this version was a free download from  Since I've never read any of the great Russian novels, as an introduction, it's probably a good thing that this was abridged.  If and when I read the actual book, I'll have a better chance of keeping all the characters straight, and of not getting lost in all the diversions.  Having heard all the Russian names read aloud will no doubt be helpful, too.  This version is 19 1/4 hours long; you can download the full 40-hour version from LibriVox if you'd like.  There are also several online versions of the text, including one in the original Russian, if you're so inclined.

At first even the half-sized version seemed very long and tedious indeed.  By about halfway through, however, I began to look forward to hearing more of the story on my daily walks.  I don't know if it really got more interesting, or if I finally began to sort out the story.  You can tell it was written as a serial, and if he wasn't paid by the word, Dostoevsky sure writes that way.  For all the length, there's little plot and less action, though a great deal of character development and philosophical discussion.  I can't fault that, as this is a trait I treasure in the novels of George MacDonald; perhaps the Scottish character and viewpoint was easier for me to grasp than the Russian.  That the ending is less than satisfactory was explained when I learned that this was Dostoevsky's last novel, and that he had intended it to be only the beginning of a larger (!) story.

Through several hours of listening I was not glad to be hearing the book, only that when done I would at least have some familiarity with this great classic book.  But now I'm interested enough to think I might, someday, read it in its entirety.  Maybe.  Someday.  I have an awfully large backlog of unread books as it is....
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Edit
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One of my favorites! It's worth the 20-40 hours it takes to read the whole thing. I've read it at least twice (maybe three times).

Posted by Peter V on Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Tell us what makes it a favorite, if you will, Peter.

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, March 12, 2010 at 7:48 am

1 the characters

2 the open-ended grappling with big questions/themes

3 the historical setting

Posted by Peter V on Friday, March 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I think I can agree with you on all of them, Peter; it just took me half the book to get there. In the beginning the setting, and even more the characters, were so foreign to me that I couldn't relate at all and only found it depressing. A learning curve, no doubt, and probably I will find the beginning more interesting next time.

Posted by SursumCorda on Saturday, March 13, 2010 at 9:57 am
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