As both a masterpiece of Russian populist writing and a parody of the entire genre, Poor People is an early example of Dostoevsky's genius.
Written as a series of letters, Poor People tells the tragic tale of a petty clerk and his impossible love for a young girl. Longing to help her and her family, he sells everything he can, but his kindness leads him only into more desperate poverty, and ultimately into debauchery. As a typical "man of the underground", he serves as the embodiment of the belief that happiness can only be achieved with riches.
This work is remarkable for its vivid characterizations, especially of Dievushkin, the clerk, solely by means of his letters to the young girl and her answers to him.
"Patrick Cullen and Julia Emlen read the letters with deep emotion, exhibiting the love, frustration, and ultimate sorrow felt by the characters. Cullen's portrayal of Dievushkin's bouts of drunkenness, as well as his frantic efforts to save Dobroselova, are marvelous and intense." (AudioFile)
"On this excellent audiobook, the epistolary format is well presented by the single-voiced first-person readings of Cullen and Emlen. Both readers express the hopeless love and rage that the two correspondents capture in their heartfelt letters." (Kliatt)
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Background before listening recommended!
Great Performance Beautiful Novel
The performance is excellent. I normally dislike audio books with more than one narrator, but given that the book consists of a series of letters between two people, it is appropriate to have a separate narrator for each, and it in no way detracts from the story. I have never read the print version, but I highly recommend this version
The most memorable moment of the Novel is the final letter, which I won't spoil, but the novel is full of great characters who face circumstances derived from their social and economic class, and their personal motivations. Despite the overall somber tone of the novel, there are many moments that will make you smile and even laugh.
So many great scenes to choose from, but I would have to say that I most enjoyed the part where Makar is called before the chief official of the government office where he is a copyist. He is embarrassed financially, and greatly concerned over his shabby appearance. After he is reprimanded for a mistake he made with an important document, just as he is about to leave, a button falls off his worn coat and rolls to the officials feet. It may not sound particularly iconic, but it is a very strong emotional moment that speaks to the heart of Makar's character and the sacrifices he is willing to make.
I had to stop myself from litsening straight through from start to finish without a break.