Poor People

  • by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Narrated by Patrick Cullen, Julia Emlen
  • 5 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.


What the Critics Say

"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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Background before listening recommended!

OKay in giving this one a "2" I'm also giving myself a "2." I usually like to read a book, even a classic, without background to get my immediate "Take" and then I might read more about it, background etc. if so driven. And though I've read "Crime and Punishment," I didn't know that Poor People was Doestoevsky's first work, and was not familiar with the story or what to expect. I absolutely recommend that American readers not familiar with the story-- familiarize themselves. Both because of the multiple characters involved with names that may blur together to our ears, and also because without background, the book quickly becomes tedious. I'm also not sure how well the epistolary novel translates into audio-- I think this is one of those forms that probably does better via written word vs. audio. I'll give this another try, and may append this review later if my enjoyment increases dramatically now that I've read more about the book -- but definitely recommend that anyone else who listens to this who doesn't know the background get it first!
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- Rebecca "Daily Dog Walker and LONG Silicon Valley commutes, so I gulp through and love lotsa books, especially literary fiction and Mystery."

Great Performance Beautiful Novel

Would you consider the audio edition of Poor People to be better than the print version?

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

What was one of the most memorable moments of Poor People?

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.

Which scene was your favorite?

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.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I had to stop myself from litsening straight through from start to finish without a break.

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- Shea

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-30-2004
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.