Friday, 21 October 2016

Book Review: Resurrection by Tolstoy

Title: Resurrection
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions
Publication Date: 2014 (1899)

Pages: 466
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classic Fiction
Source: Gift

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This powerful novel, Tolstoy’s third major masterpiece, after War and Peace and Anna Karenina, begins with a courtroom drama (the finest in Russian literature) all the more stunning for being based on a real-life event. Dmitri Nekhlyudov, called to jury service, is astonished to see in the dock, charged with murder, a young woman whom he once seduced, propelling her into prostitution. She is found guilty on a technicality, and he determines to overturn the verdict. This pitches him into a hellish labyrinth of Russian courts, prisons and bureaucracy, in which the author loses no opportunity for satire and bitter criticism of a state system (not confined to that country) of cruelty and injustice. This is Dickens for grown-ups, involving a hundred characters, Crime and Punishment brought forward half a century. With unforgettable set-pieces of sexual passion, conflict and social injustice, Resurrection proceeds from brothel to court-room, stinking cells to offices of state, luxury apartments to filthy life in Siberia. The ultimate crisis of moral responsibility embroils not only the famous author and his hero, but also you and me. Can we help resolve the eternal issues of law and imprisonment? (Goodreads Synopsis)

Resurrection has a moralistic tone, but whether that is your sort of thing or not, it remains an excellent novel peopled with interesting and diverse characters.  I particularly enjoyed following Nekhlyudov's gradual shift in opinion and actions; although, I found his ending less satisfying than Katusha's when I turned the final page. The story's consideration of prisons and punishment still has relevance today, and thus it is a piece of classic fiction that transcends its setting. I found this one of the easiest of Tolstoy's works to read, not least because it has a far smaller cast of characters to remember than War and Peace or Anna Karenina. That doesn't necessarily make it a better book than those two key works; however, it may prove a good introductory novel for those less used to following Russian names etc. All up - a most enjoyable and thought-provoking read. 4.5 stars

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