Saturday, 31 January 2015

Review: The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Dover Thrift Edition book cover of The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Because every sane person decides to pick up a heavy Russian classic in the fortnight before they're supposed to be reading War & Peace. I'll admit, slogging through The Double has not made me feel good about my ability to reach the end of Tolstoy.

Warning: rubbish review ahead, but there is nothing to say about this book.
Plot summary: A lonely government clerk - shy, awkward, blundering - finds himself pursued by a mysterious stranger. Somehow he looks familiar. In fact, he realizes, he looks exactly like him. He even has the same name. But, unlike him, he is charming and confident. Soon the stranger starts insinuating himself into his life. He works at his office, stays at his apartment, ingratiates himself with his colleagues. No one seems surprised. Who is he? What does he want? Is he a double, or something darker altogether? 

I'm sure I'm missing all kinds of symbolism and metaphor here, but I review for enjoyment and I did not enjoy this book.

It's blessedly short, but it still took me more than a week to read due to the rambling narrative and irritating protagonist. It has what could be quite a sinister, interesting plot and the concept did occasionally make me shudder but that's definitely not down to Golyadkin's indecision about whether to blot his paperwork or not.

I'll be honest - I usually try and avoid using the word, but it's boring. To say it has such a dark plot, bugger all actually happens. Lots of worrying and even more pacing, but that's about it. It's also rather depressing, but hey, it is a Russian classic. Excuse me while I go rein in my shock. 

Worryingly, it's quite difficult to follow as obviously Russian literature is notorious for using three similar-sounding titles for every character. Add to that two characters who are actually the same character and it can't really get any worse.  

I'm rather concerned about reading War & Peace now. To be fair, I read and enjoyed Anna Karenina with no trouble at all, but The Double really was very difficult. I know that there will be people reading this who are rolling their eyes for my lack of actual literary criticism, but that's fine. I'm sure the book is a masterpiece of Russian class commentary or something, but the fact is that The Double is Not An Interesting Book To Read.

Sign-up to the War & Peace read-a-long now! 


  1. I'm sure if you managed Anna Karenina then War and Peace should be fine! They are two different authors, after all. I haven't finished any Dostoyevsky, but I did start reading one of his (The Brothers Karamazov I think, or something spelt correctly) and didn't really get on with it at all.

    We will conquer war and peace! WE WILL!

  2. This does not fill me with confidence! The number 1 thing that I'm worried about with War and Peace is the names...not only because I find it distracting reading something when i can't decide how the names should be pronounced but because I'm worried that I just won't be able to follow what's going on!

    Still, I'm sure it's all going to be FINE! The intro in mine promises me that I'm going to like it and I'm sure it wouldn't lie to me.

  3. I've got a completely non-scientific, based on three people, theory that one is either a Dostoevsky person or a Tolstoy person. Since I fall under the former, (Crime and Punishment is in my all time top 5) I may join your read along since I made a goal that in 2015 I would finally tackle War and Peace.


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