The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Note: Due to translation differences and conventions, some names (including that of the author himself) may be spelled differently than in other sources.
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky is a classic drama. The book is largely comprised of major dramatic scenes (which, incidentally, lends itself well to adaptation as a play), placing the reader squarely inside a chaotic, argumentative, conniving dialogue between a number of eccentric characters. It is the story of an man who is afflicted by epilepsy (and perhaps mild autism?) who finds himself thrust into a world of money, marriages, status, and familial allegiances.
Dostoevsky describes characters in such a way that the reader can be both intimately understanding and yet thoroughly surprised. Characters like Prince Lyov Nikolayevitch Myshkin surprise us with his continued hubris of self deprecation and humility, while satisfying us with consistency and reliability. Others, like Lizaveta Provokenya Epanchin or Gavril Ardalyonovitch Ivolgin (Ganya) surprise us with swings of alliance and loyalty, satisfying the reader only through the consistency of eccentricity.
The Idiot, like other classics (especially Russian classics), can be a difficult book to read. There are many characters, and characters are referred to interchangeably by full name, title, last name, or nick name, and these names can be difficult to understand for English readers (e.g., Gavril to Ganya, Nikolai to Kolya, etc). Additionally, few modern English novels have such lengthy and dense dialogue as the Idiot.
As I have not yet finished the book, I intend to update this post upon completion. Stay tuned for my final review.