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Customer Review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intense, but excellent read, January 8, 2005
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This review is from: Netochka Nezvanova (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I got this book with some Christmas money this Christmas. Reading it was amazing to me, but then Dostoevsky almost always amazes me. His characters are so believable, even though they're always mentally such a mess - severely distraught, haunted by memories, twisted out of stability by circumstance, or downright delusional. Netochka wanting so desperately to be loved and being frightened to death of people who tried to be kind to the point of making them sick of her...

I found this to be a fascinating and all too short read. I would love to know how the story was intended to come out in the end. I felt the story moved along in the first two parts; the third part began to lose momentum, but I think that's because the conflict in it was not really resolved. The first part was the best-written, though. I would definitely agree with the other reviewers on that point.

The second part was indeed strange, and yet not so strange. Netochka has this thing for kissing the princess Katya at the place where she lives after her father dies. That seems downright odd, but I don't think it really is. I think a lot of people would take this as some sort of lesbian angle in the story, but I think it's something else, because I can see right into Netochka's soul. She has such a fervent desire to love someone, because she has never had anyone to be her "hero" or that was nice to her, really nice to her. Katya is everything she is not: impetuous, rambunctious, energetic, a real livewire. Netochka is a thinker, silent, emotional, but would like to be more like Katya. The two of them battle furiously with one another in spirit, competition is intense, until finally one night they talk after being put to bed and admit that they really adore one another after all. But back to the kissing bit. I think this is a result of lack of physical contact of any kind with other people. Netochka has lived her life with no hugging, handholding, kissing, cuddling... It just didn't happen. So, to love people so intensely and want to kiss them seems like normal human reaction. Katya was available. It is possible to be very close to another woman and not be lesbian. I think Netochka worshipped her - but not in a romantic way.

I enjoyed reading this book very much, although I had to put it down sometimes because its intensity was too much for me, and come back to it a few hours later. I recommend it as a glimpse into Dostoevsky's early writings and to see themes arising that he later developed more fully in other works.
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Location: Willamette Valley, OR

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