Book Review: White Nights by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

white-nightsHello everyone, here’s a little change for you: *drum roll* my very first book review!

The subject of this review is the short story “White Nights” (Belye nochi) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I’m an avid reader and every year I try to read as many books as I possibly can. Lately I discovered that I particularly enjoy reading the classics, and last year I read a lot of English literature: I finally finished all of Jane Austen’s novels, I’ve read Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd” and “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and some of the Bronte sisters novels (“Agnes Grey”, “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre”).

So this year, for a change, I decided to read some of the Russian classics. So far I’ve read three books by Russian authors, “The Master and Margarita” by Bulgakov, which I absolutely adored, and two by Dostoyevsky. “White Nights” is actually the second book that I’ve read, “Crime and Punishment” was the first. So far I like his writing style a lot, I was thinking of reading The Idiot next but I’m open to suggestions if you have them.

You know this may seem obvious, but after reading classic literature I learned one simple thing: there is a reason why a certain book becomes a “classic” and people read it even after centuries… and most of the times the reason is that it’s a very, very good book. Reading a classic book has rarely disappointed me.

As for Russian literature, in particular, I had this preconceived notion that it was going to be particularly heavy and that I was going to get bored after a while, but I was completely mistaken. I have read only a few books so far but they turned out to be very interesting readings. One thing I liked about them is how the style is rough and without embellishments, there’s a sort of raw realness to it.

As for Dostoyevsky style, in particular, the two books that I’ve read are very different: “Crime and Punishment” is darker, the entire books revolves around an assassination, while “White Nights” is more idealistic and dreamy, at least in the first part. I felt a deep closeness to the main character, the nameless narrator, who wanders the streets of St. Petersburg in deep solitude and spends most of his time wandering the streets and daydreaming. He hasn’t been able to make any friends and he feels so alone that he even starts talking to things: buildings, houses and so on. I think that anyone who has ever felt alone or isolated will relate to him, and so will the broken hearted and the dreamers. I highly recommend it to all the dreamers out there, this book is for you.

The main focus of the story is the relationship between him and a young girl named Nastenka (Anastasia). The two meet one night and he they quickly become friends. Without giving too much away (I mean the book was written in 1848, so we can’t really talk about spoilers here) it’s the story of these two beautifully written characters and their meetings during the nights following their first encounter.

The book is a must in my opinion, even if it’s a short story it able to strike some deep chords, it’s poetic and pure, idealistic and romantic.

On the side notes, I’d like to mention one thing I especially liked about this book: which is just a silly thing, actually, but I love when authors that I love reference each other, in this case, Dostoyevsky mentions Walter Scott a couple of times and it was something that made me happy.

If you have read it let me know in the comments what your favorite quotes are, and if you have any suggestions on what should I read next. Right now I’m reading The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks so that is probably going to be my next review, but after that, I’d like to read another Russian classic.

I have quite a few favorite quotes from this beautiful story but if I have to pick one it this:

“I am a dreamer. I know so little of real life that I just can’t help re-living such moments as these in my dreams, for such moments are something I have very rarely experienced. I am going to dream about you the whole night, the whole week, the whole year. I feel I know you so well that I couldn’t have known you better if we’d been friends for twenty years. You won’t fail me, will you? Only two minutes, and you’ve made me happy forever. Yes, happy. Who knows, perhaps you’ve reconciled me with myself, resolved all my doubts.”
Fedor Dostoyevsky