Shakespeare, Dickens, Homer, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, History.
I avoided this book for a long time: who wants to read a book about a person who's so good everyone around him thinks he's an idiot?
Boy, was I wrong. This is an intense and brooding novel, filled with Dostoevsky's usual array of deeply conflicted characters and blistering monologues. The idiot himself, Prince Myshkin, is no pushover: maybe he's a bit naive at times, but he insists on treating people as equals and assuming their good intentions until contrary evidence is overwhelming. He suffers from epilepsy, and in the course of the novel has a couple of seizures that dramatically alter the direction of the story.
Superficially, the novel is about Myshkin's conflicted relationships with two women: Aglaya, the youngest daughter of a distant relative, with whom he is in love; and Anastassya Filippovna, a "fallen woman" who's been fobbed off by her former lover and who seems to be drifting from one self-destructive relationship to another. Myshkin may have loved her once, but now he mainly pities her. Aglaya, who at one point seems willing to marry Myshkin, ultimately breaks off because of his obsession with Anastassya.
But that's only one small facet of this complex, teeming book. The characters are captivating, the scenes at times almost hypnotic in their intensity. I've only read a few of Dostoevsky's novels, but so far I'm inclined to say this is probably my favorite.
Robert Whitfield (=Simon Vance) gives a stellar reading. Of particular note is his ability to distinguish the voices of the many women in the book: sometimes the shading is subtle, but I always knew instantly who was talking. Well done, highly recommended.
I love literary fiction and I occasionally delve into non-fiction. I love books that are suspenseful and am really into well-told stories.
I got this download from Audible.com and it is brilliantly read by James Lee. I was completely captivated and transported to the world of Edmund Dantes and 17th century France. I did consult spark notes every 5 or 10 chapters, because when listening to a book of this magnitude where aristocrats are changing their names (and sometimes needing aliases) and getting titles, it could be easy to get lost and hard to keep track of who is who. But I never felt lost or dragged down by this story that must be the blueprint for every romantic, adventure or character study novel that came afterwards. The novel is rich with sumptuous prose and unforgettable characters and is on par with other masterpieces like Lord of the Rings. It has everything and feels surprisingly contemporary. The language is not stilted at all and I found it to be extremely witty at some points. With Monte Cristo the first superhero is created by Dumas as he seems (to characters in the book) to posses superhuman strength, wealth beyond imagination and can always see 10 moves ahead in this very intriguing game of revenge chess he is playing with the people who falsely imprisoned him. James Lee is an amazing reader, so if audible books is your thing, go for it. I was never bored and was sad when it all, finally ended. It could have even been longer for me. I can't imagine being satisfied with an abridgment of this novel...it is too rich, and why let someone edit it for you when you can have the whole, glorious tale. And if you prefer print books, then I really don't see how you could go wrong. The Count of Monte Cristo is a hell of a good ride and deserves every single recommendation it gets. This is one of those once-in-a-decade books that deserves a whole constellation of stars instead of just five. Fantastic! Bravo!