Into the Book


Fyodor Dostoevsky, by Peter Leithart, is definitely not your average biography. It’s written all from the perspective of Dostoevsky himself, relating his life’s story to a close friend. It’s a unique way to attempt a biography, but Leithart doesn’t pull it off flawlessly. Still, it’s an interesting biography of a great writer, and has definitely piqued my interest of Dostoevsky overall.

The book is longer than the others in the Christian Encounters series, but wasn’t lengthy or boring by a long shot. It’s interesting to hear the story of Dostoevsky’s life as his own telling of it. I did find it annoying, however, that the author basically invented every conversation in the entire book. Since it’s told as a story, this is quite a big chunk of the book. Mainly, it just leaves the reader somewhat unsure of what’s really true and what’s been made up, even though the author assures us that the conversations remain true to life.

This can also leave the reader somewhat discombobulated, as in addition to telling the story from Dostoevsky’s perspective, in present day, the author also jumps back multiple times to days in the past. A few lapses into plain telling and some confusing passages at the end also make this book a little difficult to follow chronologically, but overall it’s an excellent effort and a unique take on a biography.

Throughout the tale of Dostoevsky’s life, it’s almost…refreshing to read about his failures in life. Dostoevsky was married twice, with a mistress in between, and frequently suffered with bouts of losing his temper when his passionate beliefs were challenged. Biographies all too commonly gloss over these failings. In this case, the failings serve to emphasize Dostoevsky’s lifelong belief of humankind’s total depravity and need for Jesus Christ.

Fyodor Dostoevsky gives us an up-close look at a man who truly loved his homeland, and through his writing sought to bring Russia into the modern age. At the same time, it captures in freeze-frame Dostoevsky’s attempts to balance between the radical who called for a European Russia, and the traditionalists, who sought to preserve the status quo. Above all, we see the life of a man who despite incredible trouble, remained steadfast in his beliefs and set an example for an entire nation with his writing.

This was an excellent biography, and I recommend it to anyone interested in literature or Russian history. Or, even if you’re just looking for a good read about a man of faith, Fyodor Dostoevsky would not be a bad choice.

~ Andrew

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Published on 18 September, 2011. Last updated on

1 Comment

  1. Corey P.

    I’m getting ready to read Crime & Punishment just as soon as I knock off a few of my current reads. Great review – I’ll have to check this biography out.

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