The Gambler paints a stark picture of the attractions—and addictions—of gambling. Using skillful characterization, Dostoevsky faithfully depicts life among the gambling set in old Germany. This probing psychological novel explores the tangled love affairs and complicated lives of Alexey Ivanovitch, a young gambler, and Polina Alexandrovna, the woman he loves.
Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoevsky (1821–1881) was born in Moscow, the son of a surgeon. Leaving the study of engineering for literature, he published Poor Folk in 1846. As a member of revolutionary circles in St. Petersburg, he was condemned to death in 1849. A last-minute reprieve sent him to Siberia for hard labor. Returning to St. Petersburg in 1859, he worked as a journalist and completed his masterpiece, Crime and Punishment, as well as other works, including The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov.
This is a crushing novel. It is one of those classic stories where the narrator is crushed by the weight of his desire, by the gravity of odds, and by the frailty of human hope. Within Dostoevsky's short novel there exists an almost existential subtext, an underlying risk of ruin; where the longer you live, the greater your chance of losing everything. Dostoevsky leaves the reader with small wins, decent runs, and hopeful conceits that tempt the reader to believe that one might walk away from life with love, fulfilment, and yes plenty of lucre ... but alas time, the vig, and death (that croupier bitch) all weedle your last gulden and mortgage your soul's last breath.
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Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
I would recommend this book to a friend, the literature of the gaming table is fertile ground for sustaining suspense. The story moves along at a fair click. No doubt helped by the fact the Dostoevsky was writing under under a very strict deadline.
What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?
The most interesting is the glimpse given of European Casino life in the 19th century which features fleetingly in other works of the era (I'm thinking of Vanity Fair).The least interesting aspect is the complete lack of likeable characters. I don't know whether or not Dostoevsky deliberately made it so, as this is my first foray into his dark world, but its hard work when you don't really care about any of the characters.
Which character – as performed by Simon Prebble – was your favourite?
The General, around which the other characters orbit and nicely centres the story. In fact he's the only one I had any sympathy for and by the end I was hoping he would triumph.
Was The Gambler worth the listening time?
Yes and you can get the book free as well.
Any additional comments?
Simon Prebble does an excellent job, although maybe the Duchess could have been toned down a little (she sounded like Lady Bracknell!)
What did you like most about The Gambler?
Psychologically well observed story about chance and addiction.
Would you be willing to try another one of Simon Prebble’s performances?
Ideally not, I found the regional accent he gave the genteel Englishman unlikely for a person of this class and utterly annoying.
Would you consider the audio edition of The Gambler to be better than the print version?
A Fabulous Listen
What about Simon Prebble’s performance did you like?
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
The story is compelling and he is not a great novelist for nothing.
Any additional comments?
Thoroughly enjoyable and strongly recommend