The Idiot is the second book I have read by Dostoyevsky. This book is dialogue driven, at times confusing (in a good way), and insightful. To say that it does not rely heavily on action (swords fights, conquest... movement) would be an understatement. Part two (of four) in particular takes place almost entirely in one room around a man recovering from an illness. People come in and talk, they leave talking and then more people come in and discuss what had been talked about. Knowing how difficult dialouge can be, it was rather impressive. Then again, how much talking can one really take?
The book is set in Russia among mid-to-upper-class folk, their families and acquaintances. The culture felt very much like what you might find in Dickens or Austen. When I said the book was hard to follow it was usually due to the aristocratic subtleties of the characters that the author would not explain in the moment, instead leaving the reader (and the main character) to wonder what was going on. I often wondered whether or not I had missed an important detail, only to have the entire matter explained to me later. Usually it is clear when authors are leading you along like this, but Dostoyevsky did a good job keeping mysteries alive and in the front of your mind without if feeling like some authorial trick. Quite impressive.
The most disappointing part about this book was the ending. Having read Crime and Punishment I expected something grandiose and compelling, instead I was greeted with tragedy; and not the good tragedy either where two stupid love sick teens kill themselves. No, in this story bad things happen to characters you actually like. And they don't get resolved. I could happily accept this if I could grasp some overarching meaning, but I will have to do some reading about the book before I can come to that. Crime and Punishment had a very clear purpose that was painted beautifully in the end. The Idiot was more troubling.