Reading the Classics discussion

The Brothers Karamazov
This topic is about The Brothers Karamazov
213 views
Past Group Reads > The Brothers Karamazov: Book I

Comments (showing 1-40 of 40) (40 new)    post a comment »
dateDown_arrow    newest »

Jenn | 398 comments Mod
Please discuss Book 1: The History of a Family.


message 2: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Degraaf (ldegraaf) | 20 comments I like how the book starts out by laying out the family tree and some surrounding characters along with a little about each of them. Plus, this way it is easy to look back at this section when I forget how exactly the characters fit together, which will happen a few times since I am not good at keeping all that kind of information straight.

Also, from the introduction of the characters I can tell I am going to enjoy this book, because with a group like this it would be pretty hard to write a bad novel.


Danielle | 55 comments I am finding this novel absolutely hilarious. Everything is a joke, but it's a dark humor. That voice is what has me going from the even the background. Why do I find this so funny when I can't MAKE myself read Dickens because I find the humor there so obnoxious?


Alana (alanasbooks) | 612 comments The more I hear about this novel, the more I can't wait to start it, but I'm forcing myself to wait until I finish David Copperfield which is getting SO obnoxious. Hopefully will be done with it soon! This book sounds delightful :)


message 5: by Brian (new) - added it

Brian (myersb68) | 62 comments I've decided to start this even tho I'm still busy with Copperfield (didn't we decide that's a 2 month read thrum end Dec anyway?). I read Crime and Punishment years ago and have always wanted to get to this, so am pleased the group decided on this. Dostoyevsky is, IMO, the greatest of the Russian novelists where Tolstoy, for example, bores me to sleep with his endless, pointless, droning scenes. LOVED Book 1 here! Dostoyevsky has created quite a cast of characters. I suspect we'll have a lot of fun with this one.


message 6: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer  | 201 comments Brian, David Copperfield has been changed to a two month read. I plan on finishing David Copperfield over the next six days or so if possible, and then starting this read.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 612 comments I just want to get done with DC before moving on. I like long classics, but I find that I can't do two of them at once. I get discouraged too easily. I'm almost done with it tho, after having it on all day while doing a complete cleaning of my house (which it desperately needed). I still can't decide whether or not I like Dickens...

I am really interested in contrasting the writing styles of the two Russian authors. I liked Anna Karenina a lot, but some sections did drag on quite a bit. This one is nearly as long, but sounds like it has more action, which is good.


Alan | 26 comments I'm reading the Volokhonsky/Pevear translation for a change. In the introduction, the translators make an interesting argument concerning the narrator. They contend that it is a mistake to think that the narrator is either 1) Dostoyevsky; or 2) a reliable witness.

I find it interesting, for instance, that the narrator describes Fyodor Karamazov as "muddleheaded." Yet he is a shrewd, if unscrupulous, businessman who never gets the short end of a deal. In our culture today, we would not associate the word "muddleheaded" with someone who made themselves rich, even if their conduct was morally suspect. I wonder if this reflects a change in cultural values or whether this is an instance of the narrator trying to mislead.

I also find it interesting the way Dostoyevsky lays the foundation for exploring the "nature versus nurture" question. Are the differences between Dmitry, Ivan and Alyosha a result of upbringing? Are each in some sense a product of Fyodor being a "sensualist?" It will be quite interesting to watch Dostoyevsky play out this theme.


message 9: by Chahrazad (new) - added it

Chahrazad | 48 comments When I read Dostoyevsky I feel quite amazed at how someone can write this long a work and never sound boring one bit... the characters always show a psychological depth that makes it diffecult to forget them, my problem is with the names though, I can't always remember them :)
Like Brian, I read Crime and Punishment a while ago and always wanted to start with this one


Danielle | 55 comments I like the way the narration invites me into the story, but this also tips the hand so that I know he might not know everything. This isn't "our" village, etc. The narrator assumes a familiarity.


message 11: by Phil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil (Lanark) Okay - I've finished book one and this is a cracking read, especially compared with the Tolstoy. The humour is mischievous and knowing and, being narrated, we're never sure that we're getting a rounded picture of the characters or a deliberately skewed impression.

So far, I feel that the two older brothers haven't yet been more than sketched, so I certainly expect to hear more about them. Alyosha, we know much better - but my favourite character right now is the father, Fyodor Pavlovich, everything he says is hilarious and how such a debauched loon created three such po-faced children is beyond me.


message 12: by Chahrazad (last edited Dec 05, 2012 11:46AM) (new) - added it

Chahrazad | 48 comments I'm done with book one...what can I say?!!
Fyodor Pavlovitch is quite a specimen... I find him "sentimental. He was wicked and sentimental"
on the other hand, I can't really understand Alyosha, though there's more about him than his brothers. Is he somewhere in the middle between Dmitri and Ivan or what exactly? I'm waiting to know more about them, maybe I'll understand him more.

Danielle wrote: "I like the way the narration invites me into the story, but this also tips the hand so that I know he might not know everything. This isn't "our" village, etc. The narrator assumes a familiarity."
I too got the same impression, maybe that's what actually is keeping me alert to any details or giveways and the other characters.


message 13: by Margaret (new) - added it

Margaret Chahrazad wrote: "When I read Dostoyevsky I feel quite amazed at how someone can write this long a work and never sound boring one bit... the characters always show a psychological depth that makes it diffecult to f..."

I too read Crime and Punishment many years ago, and have had Brothers on my list for a long time. Just decided today to join in here. I love the way the narrator builds interest in the story and the characters. The tone to me is very "homey" like an old uncle telling a family story. I am expecting a lot of surprises.


message 14: by Kylie (new) - rated it 1 star

Kylie | 37 comments Just finished book one and am torn on how I feel about it. I really like the way the book is narrated and I have laughed several times at the humor of the narration. I'm also very intrigued about the book because the characters seem to be very interesting and a good mix of personalities. However, I still don't really know what the story is even about or what the conflict will be. Maybe the personalities or the inheritance will provide the conflict? Also, I'm not sure how much I like getting the background information on the characters upfront instead of getting to know then as the story progresses. I can't wait to keep reading though and feel that I will like this book much better than AK.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 612 comments Just started and finished Book One today. I'm already liking it very much. My librivox recording has every chapter broken down, so my audio sections vary from 6 minutes to about 20, and for some reason, that always makes the reading go faster. Long sections tend to drag out for me. That aside, though, I love the writing style. It's witty and funny, even when describing the most despicable people (namely the father). I feel like we've just been introduced to everyone, so I'm not sure what to say about the others, except from the dotage on Alyosha, I'm afraid he's going to become one of those "too good to be true" characters that's just obnoxious by the end. We shall see, though. On to the next part!


message 16: by Bevin (new)

Bevin (BevinK) | 28 comments I've just finished Book One, & while I'm intrigued by the family, I keep getting distracted by who the narrator is. Every time he says something along the lines of 'our district' or 'our monastery', I find my mind wandering off to try to figure out who he is.

Liking Dostoevsky WAY better than Tolstoy, I must say.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm in the middle of this, about to ready the chapter on Alexei. I have to say I struggle with the vast array of names used for each character - the number of diminutives used in Russian tends to mean I loose track of who is being discussed. But I've just about got them straight at the moment.


Kelsi | 69 comments I'm really excited to start this, although, I have Final Exams this week and won't be able to start until next week.

Are any of you using Sparknotes or another source to supplement? If so, I'm curious about your thoughts and what you are using. Thanks!


message 19: by Alana (last edited Dec 10, 2012 01:02PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Alana (alanasbooks) | 612 comments Kelsi wrote: "I'm really excited to start this, although, I have Final Exams this week and won't be able to start until next week.

Are any of you using Sparknotes or another source to supplement? If so, I'm ..."


Yes, I almost never read a classic without having Sparknotes or something as I go along. I find it particularly helpful for foreign culture/language books, like Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina, etc. If I'm not familiar with the language, time period or political figures of the time and place, it's very difficult to understand the full implications of the story. SparkNotes gives background on the author and setting he/she chose for the novel, which can be very helpful in determining what they are writing for in their era. I have noticed, however, that the SparkNote for Brothers Karamazov isn't as complete and good as some others I've read (i.e. The Scarlet Letter, The Turn of the Screw). It's helpful, just not as much as it could be. I'm listening to an mp3 of the book, but I have a paper copy as well and find that reading the footnotes is very helpful for some of their philosophical conversations.

Is it Russian authors or Russian culture or past Russian culture that loves using first and last names of the characters so much? Did people really do this all the time? I know we do it today with celebrities, but not within our own family, unless it's a special nickname kind of situation. What's with saying Fyodor Pavlovich over and over again? We know who he is. I noticed this with Tolstoy in Anna Karenina as well, so it's not just Dostoevsky.


message 20: by Kylie (new) - rated it 1 star

Kylie | 37 comments Kelsi, I always use sparknotes!!!! Russian literature is especially difficult or me because I don't know enough about their social history to keep up sometimes. The names also confuse me really badly and I have trouble keeping up with who the story is referring to.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 612 comments I think Sparknotes answered part of my question:

A Note on the Names

To English-speaking readers, the names of the characters in The Brothers Karamazov can be confusing. Characters are often referred to formally, with both their first and middle names: “Fyodor Pavlovich” or “Dmitri Fyodorovich.” In these cases, the middle names are almost always based on the name of the character’s father. As a result, the Karamazov brothers all have the middle name “Fyodorovich,” meaning literally, “son of Fyodor.” We learn very little about the father of Karamazov’s first wife, Adelaida Ivanovna, but from her middle name, we know that his name was Ivan. Keeping this device in mind can be a helpful way to distinguish the characters early in the novel when a character’s father also takes part in the story.

When characters are not referred to in the formal manner, they are often referred to by informal nicknames, which may seem to bear little resemblance to their real names: Alexei Karamazov is called “Alyosha” throughout the novel, and Dmitri Karamazov is frequently called “Mitka.” Many characters have multiple nicknames.



message 22: by Cynthia (last edited Dec 10, 2012 04:02PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cynthia Dunn I wish he had listed the characters at the front of the book. I sometimes have to leaf through the previous pages to see who someone is.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 612 comments SparkNotes has a list of characters, although be warned that if you read past the first line or two it might contain plot spoilers.


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

I have an edition with a list of characters - and lists the various diminutives as well. I'm hoping that will keep me on track.

Finished Book 1. I like the fact that each boy has been introduced separately. not sure I'm a fan of the father though - sounds like a nasty piece of work to me. And they three brothers are all very very different, aren't they?


Alana (alanasbooks) | 612 comments Helen wrote: "I have an edition with a list of characters - and lists the various diminutives as well. I'm hoping that will keep me on track.

Finished Book 1. I like the fact that each boy has been introduced s..."


True, although, that's fairly true to life. My birth sisters and I have the same parents, grew up in the same household with the same rules and traditions, etc, but we all have distinctly different personalities and outlooks. I can't imagine with having two different mothers, not being much raised by the father and mother dying young in all cases... they've all been set up for worlds of hurt, mistrust and anger, yet they all respond very differently to it.


message 26: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Degraaf (ldegraaf) | 20 comments Cynthia wrote: "I wish he had listed the characters at the front of the book. I sometimes have to leaf through the previous pages to see who someone is."

I was having the same problem so I made a family tree for my own use and now I have put it on my blog so that everyone can use it. I included all the nicknames that SparkNotes had. There are no spoilers.

http://readingreportsbylisa.blogspot....


Cynthia Dunn Lisa wrote: "Cynthia wrote: "I wish he had listed the characters at the front of the book. I sometimes have to leaf through the previous pages to see who someone is."

I was having the same problem so I made a..."


Cool.


message 28: by Kyleen (new) - added it

Kyleen Stevenson-braxton | 6 comments I just joined the group and began reading the novel today. I found it interesting that the author is so sharply contrasting Alyosha as a moral figure with the other characters, especially his father. The description of how he would be bullied at school and offer no retaliation made me wonder if he is a bit of a Christ-like figure. I also found it interesting that the son's non judgmental attitude toward his father coupled with his inherent goodness seems to have brought out some self reflection in his father.


message 29: by Kyleen (new) - added it

Kyleen Stevenson-braxton | 6 comments Lisa wrote: "Cynthia wrote: "I wish he had listed the characters at the front of the book. I sometimes have to leaf through the previous pages to see who someone is."

I was having the same problem so I made a..."


Thanks for the family tree! It will help!


message 30: by Kyleen (new) - added it

Kyleen Stevenson-braxton | 6 comments I'm finished with book 1. It is interesting to me how the author narrates the story, as if he were just relating common knowledge for someone who is unfamiliar with the story. I almost get the impression the "we" are the town's people, as if he were in a pub sitting around re-telling the story and all the other town's people were sitting around nodding their heads in agreement because they already know the story.


message 31: by Luci (new) - added it

Luci Brehm (Ibdagoode) | 1 comments i have wanted to read this for a while so i am glad to be reading this with the group!


message 32: by Katrina (new) - added it

Katrina (katrinasreads) I really enjoyed this first section, learning the history of each of the sons. It's is interestin g that they are all so different, I'm intrigued to see if a few of them pair up together or if they all remain three separate entities.


message 33: by Christina (new)

Christina (gypsy_am_i) | 6 comments Ah, I'm so behind! I'm hoping to catch up quickly, however. I love the tone the narrator takes. Welcoming me into the story, and almost making me a part of it, but still taking the trouble to explain things--but only the things that are necessary, and saving some bits for later so as not to confuse me. Such a considerate author. :)


message 34: by Marilou (new) - added it

Marilou (DazzlingBooks) | 3 comments I am starting this book very very late but it's introduction makes me want to read it instead of the february pick. While reading the first chapters, I had a smile on my face the whole time. The author has a sarcastic sense of humour that I like. Alyosha intrigues me a lot, I wonder if he really is as angelic as he is described. And why is he so obsessed about his mother? I also wonder who the narrator is. Can't wait to get further into the story!


Cynthia Dunn Marilou wrote: "I am starting this book very very late but it's introduction makes me want to read it instead of the february pick. While reading the first chapters, I had a smile on my face the whole time. The au..."

I haven't finished it yet but I've found it has its ups and downs. Sometimes I love it and other times I can't wait to get through the chapter. But in such a big book that's to be expected, I guess. I'm mostly really liking it. Enjoy!


Dolores (Dizzydee39) | 350 comments Mod
Marilou wrote: "I am starting this book very very late but it's introduction makes me want to read it instead of the february pick. While reading the first chapters, I had a smile on my face the whole time. The au..."

That's ok. There are still people who haven't finished it yet, so you will have company in your reading. I am also wondering who the narrator could possibly be.


Kelsi | 69 comments Just finished Book 1. Hmmmmm is about all I've got. Fyodor seems like such a butt, and I think that is the only solid opinion I have been able to form so far. The other characters, especially Mitva fascinate me but I'm not sure I follow them quite yet. I'm intrigued, but can already tell that some of the philosophy to come is going to bog me down.

I'm kind of confused by the narrator. Is it Dostoevsky? If so, it has bothered me a lot that he inserts "I." I'm writing my senior thesis and putting pronouns or your own opinion in your writing is such a taboo. This is nitpicky, but it is fiction so I should probably just grin and bear it.


message 38: by Alan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alan | 26 comments Kelsi wrote: "Just finished Book 1. Hmmmmm is about all I've got. Fyodor seems like such a butt, and I think that is the only solid opinion I have been able to form so far. The other characters, especially Mit..."

Kelsi, message 8 above comments on the issue of the narrator, which is a huge issue throughout the book. In a sense, the narrator is almost a character in the narrative rather than a true narrator.


message 39: by Phil (last edited Feb 13, 2013 05:45AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil (Lanark) The narrator annoyed me. And it was never resolved as to who he was (not a spoiler - just warning you not to wait for a resolution for the narrator issue). I'd have prefered if D had written it without a narrator at all, because - for me - when you have a narrator, the narrator has to have a definite position within the story and this just wafted around whenever D felt he needed to give the idea that he had a bit of gossip.


Kelsi | 69 comments Thanks! Good to know that about the narrator now or it will drive me crazy.


back to top

unread topics | mark unread


Books mentioned in this topic

David Copperfield (other topics)
The Scarlet Letter (other topics)
The Turn of the Screw (other topics)
Anna Karenina (other topics)