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The Doll

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  8,984 ratings  ·  204 reviews
Warsaw under Russian rule in the late 1870s is the setting for Prus’s grand panorama of social conflict, political tension, and personal suffering. The middle-aged hero, Wokulski, successful in business, is being destroyed by his obsessive love for a frigid society doll, Izabela. Embattled aristocrats, the new men of finance, Dickensian tradesmen, and the urban poor all co ...more
Paperback, 702 pages
Published December 19th 1996 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1890)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  8,984 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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The Doll by Bolesław Prus is undeniably a great masterpiece of Polish realism in literature. This is an epic and detailed tale exploring XIX century Warsaw, tale in which Prus created a vivid picture of the city and people on the background of the economic, ideological and social transformations.

I’ve always loved reading about this nonexistent any more world. I mean that one recorded only on sepia-toned photographs. Men in the tailcoats, women in white gowns, multicultural society, Poles, Jew
Patrick Roesle
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
You've probably never heard of this book, but it comes damn close to meeting War and Peace on its own terms.

History rolls forward. The aristocratic scumbags are replaced by capitalist scumbags. The solutions to yesterday's problems become new problems and we don't get anywhere. A great man becomes a great man in pursuit of a vain and hopeless goal that eventually destroys him. A world of fops, fools, scoundrels, and nihilists loses something it desperately needs.

We can be 99% certain that societ
anna (½ of readsrainbow)
things they didn't teach us in school:
1) wokulski is heavily depressed throughout the whole story not just the last few chapters
2) every dude is a misogynist
3) might have been accidental but basically everyone is Gay™
John Gaynard
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In writing this majestic novel about fin de siècle 19th century Warsaw, Prus illustrated all the social currents that would make Poland such a cauldron of differing identities in the following century. Ostensibly a story about the excruciating infatuation of a successful merchant, Wokulski, for a noble's daughter, the book is also about three generations of men coming to terms with Poland's past and present and trying to break away from the Nobles' Republic in order to create a modern future for ...more
Czarny Pies
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: polish-lit
"The Doll" is as a landmark work of Polish literature that will be of tremendous interest to anyone of Polish descent or having friends who received their education in Poland. It examines all of the major political, cultural and social issues that were debated in Poland in the second half of the nineteenth century. Because The Doll" is taught in Polish secondary schools, the Anglophone reader is assured the pleasure of being able to discuss the work with any of his or her friends in the expatria ...more
Richard Newton
A book well known and loved in Poland but less well known abroad. This is a shame as I’d have no hesitation in putting it in the same league as Tolstoy - and like Tolstoy this is a huge book, almost 700 pages long. It is helped by a very good translation.

At one level a love story and the power of love to distort someone life, but it is also a story of the relationships between classes - especially between the aristocracy and the self-made man, and it can be read as an existential exploration of
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: europe
This is ‘the’ acclaimed Polish classic written by Prus serialised in 1897 and full novel form in 1890. It is set in Warshaw in Poland then split between Russian, Austrian and Prussia; the local history preceding the events of the novel appear quite complicated but are detailed to some extent in the book’s notes but uprisings, unification and the elites, politics, modernity etc are the backdrop.

The story is a Dickensian length of 679 pages small font text and a weighty tome – I in fact read the e
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I will say this, I was lucky with this book. I was in love and unhappy and the heroe in the book was reflecting my mood and emotions, so I read this book in one breath. nevertheless this is one of the best polish classic books.
Someone in this reviews told that Prus is boring. I don't know about his other works but this book is nothing like boring. And although the book had been written about century ago it's still actual.
I can't describe whole book, it's soo much more then one could describe in
One of the best novels written by Polish writers ever. Really, if you are considering which book by Polish writers to read you should choose this one. It isn't a pleasant story. It is one of those that helps one to better understand people and changes in society. One of those that it is really hard to forget.

Many levels, many points of views.

An amazing study of society and a deep study of human nature.

This book made me think why (during reading it) I was constantly expecting that Izabela would h
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3,5/5 stars
Well so far this book was the best required reading that I've read in high school.
Amazing. A comprehensive portrait of Polish society in the 1870s. It's all there: Nobility, new bourgeoisie, romance, money, Jews, Christians, shops, trains, toys, dolls, beer, France, Russia, romanticism, positivism, existentialism, capitalism, socialism, nihilism. If you want to read only one book from Polish literature, read this one. ...more
David Cain
Oct 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
truly great, sadly overlooked
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written book that provides a heartbreaking and tragic narrative with social context and a broad picture of Polish society in the late 1800s. Prus was able to capture the climate of the time and through his beloved Stas, Ignacy and others, give the reader a clear eyed view into the changing dynamics and hopes of a nation, as well as the driving forces behind its leading members of society.
Apr 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who think War and Peace is too cinematic and want something more "human."
Recommended to Cole by: Milan
I have been reading this book for a year. 1) It's long and hard to carry around. 2) I don't want it to end. 3) Polish society from a hundred years ago takes a very long time to immerse oneself into so I have to block out an hour at a time to read it and I rarely have a spare hour.

Picked it up on Kundera's rec'.
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Think of Tolstoy set in Warsaw with a dash of Trollope and a pinch of Dickens thrown in for good measure.
Jan 10, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
1.5 stars
Oct 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-ebook, classics
It took me some time to get into the story but it was worth the effort. I liked the author's writing style, the atmosphere of the 19th century Warsaw and the way he described - so precisely! - people's thoughts and feelings.

What I didn't like was that each character was stupid in his/her own way and sometimes I simply wanted to shout at them. Wokulski did not see anything beside his Izabela, Rzecki went on and on about "politics" and "Napoleon heir", Izabela was into her high society status... a
May 11, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, but it would be better in shorter version. Medium engaging stuff.
Apr 19, 2020 rated it did not like it
worst experience of my fucking life, thank gods it's finally over ...more
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All in all - a terrific experience. The Polish Anna Karenina, of sorts. A nuanced and thoughtful criticism of aristocracy, and an ode to entrepreneurship. Also a fascinating character study of people stuck between the two worlds, and the search for meaning. In that sense - quite a bit ahead of its time, highlighting the psychological struggles of a person stuck between two worlds, and what social mobility is possible (or impossible). I also loved the detailed study of the psychology and social-p ...more
David C Ward
Nov 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s said there are only two plots: someone comes to town; someone leaves town. In late 19th century Warsaw no one from the upper class/aristocracy leaves and society becomes indolent, backward, and frivolous. The merchant Witulski leaves to make his fortune and to come back to win the beautiful, aristocratic, flighty Bela. A clash of two world views - modern, mercantile, striving vs. reactionary, caste bound, complacent - plays out in Witulski’s obsession. Witulski’s fluctuating state of mind i ...more
Since it took me six months to read, I'll gather my thoughts a bit before writing a review. ...more
May 04, 2012 added it
My review

The Doll takes place over an eighteen-month period during 1878-9 and looks at Polish society, with most of the focus on the growing conflict between the upper classes and the emerging tradesmen. Two ideologies are contrasted in the novel—the older Romantic ideal and the newer Positivist outlook. From the New York Review Books’ page:
Prus’s work centers around the stories of three men from three different generations: Wokulski, the fatally flawed and hopelessly love-struck hero; Rzecki, t
Rick Rapp
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Prus has been compared to Chekhov and it's an apt comparison. His lengthy book is ultimately an intimate tale following three unlikely characters: a self-made millionaire longing for acceptance, a hopeless Romantic longing for the days gone by, and an idealistic scientist. The characters are interesting and well-drawn. It's a wonderful insight into Poland in the late 19th century with many disturbing bits of foreshadowing: anti-Semitism, the useless aristocracy, and misguided nationalism. The ch ...more
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: polish
"The Doll" is a Warsaw-classic, i.e. it not only shows the "lovestory" of a wealthy salesman to a decadent impoverished noble young lady, but also the capital's development at the end of the 19th century. ...more
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rzecki and Wąsowska were the best characters, don't @ me. Also, I'm pretty sure that the fact that I almost cried in the last chapter says a lot about the quality of the book. I think it's worth it, in the circumstance that you have a LOT of time on your hands. ...more
Mar 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
brilliant! brilliant!
May 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: required-reading
I have to admit that's the first school lecture book that moved me so much. It's really deep and full of emotions in any kind from anger to angst, along with happiness. ...more
Krzysztof Gretkus
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The polish classic but really vivid and absorbing.
Michał/Michael Nikodem/Nicodemus  Hołda/Holda
This book is lesson in relationship placed in 19th centaury Warsaw.

It’s about, how we can feel love toward someone, by driving ourselves into feelings based on our imagination from permanent thinking about someone. And yes, we all do this at some level, especially at the beginning of friendship. But I do think that, when you enjoy presence of someone, you want to spend more time with them rather than over process and agonize things that happened only for one. And here attachment to social class
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Bolesław Prus (pronounced:[bɔ'lεswaf 'prus]; Hrubieszów, August 20, 1847 – May 19, 1912, Warsaw), whose actual name was Aleksander Głowacki, was a Polish journalist and novelist who is known especially for his novels The Doll and Pharaoh. He was the leading representative of realism in 19th-century Polish literature and remains a distinctive voice in world literature. Głowacki took the pen name "P ...more

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