Fyodor Dostoevsky was born in Moscow, Russia, on November 11, 1821, the son of a physician. His family was very religious, and Dostoevsky was deeply religious all his life. He began to read widely when he was young. He was first educated by his mother, father and tutors, but at the age of thirteen he was sent to a private school.
Two years later, his mother died. His father, a cruel man, was murdered in 1839, when Dostoevsky was eighteen and attending school in St. Petersburg, Russia. He trained to be a military engineer, but disliked school and loved literature. When he finished school, he abandoned his career and turned to writing.
He began writing fiction about poor people in difficult situations. In 1843 he finished his first novel, «Poor Folk». The novel was praised by a respected critic. The second novel, «The Double» (1846), was received with less enthusiasm.
The lack of success of «The Double» disturbed Dostoevsky, and from 1846 to 1849 his life and work were characterized by aimlessness and confusion. The stories and novels he wrote during this period are mostly experiments in different forms and themes.
In 1847 he joined a somewhat subversive group called the Petrashevsky Circle. In 1849 the members were arrested. After eight months in prison, Dostoevsky was «sentenced» to death. In reality, this sentence was only a joke. At one point, however, Dostoevsky believed he had only moments to live, and he never forgot the feelings of that experience. He was sentenced to four years in prison and four years of hard labour in the army in Siberia, Russia.
Dostoevsky returned to St. Petersburg in 1859 with an ailing wife, Maria Isaeva, whom he had married in Siberia. To sustain himself, Dostoevsky edited Time magazine with his brother Mikhail and wrote several works of fiction. In general, his writings during this period did not show much artistic progress until 1864, when he published «Notes from Underground».
Dostoevsky’s first wife died in 1864, and the following year he married Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina, a practical and even-tempered woman. In 1866, Dostoevsky published Crime and Punishment, which is the most popular of his great novels, perhaps because it appeals on several levels.
The Dostoyevsky family traveled in 1867 and remained outside Russia for more than four years. Their financial situation was very difficult, and Dostoevsky repeatedly lost what little money they had in gambling.
His last work was «The Brothers Karamazov» (1879-1880), the greatest of his novels. The psychologist Sigmund Freud called it one of the greatest artistic achievements of all time.
Dostoevsky sent the last part of The Brothers Karamazov to his publisher on November 8, 1880, and died shortly thereafter, on January 28, 1881. At the time of his death, he was at the height of his career in Russia and had begun to be acclaimed in Europe.
1) Sense and Sensibility
A secret, a lie, the hidden truth, what cannot be said, and a pact of silence imposed by piety or loyalty, are the basis of this novel that narrates the misfortunes and sufferings of two sisters who believe they have found love.
Both are affected by different obstacles on the road to marriage, by the selfishness of other people, the hilarious recklessness of their neighbors and, above all, by their own personality and character. All this brings them face to face with poverty and its limitations, and the possibility of an aimless life.
Marianne is loquacious and romantic. On the other hand, Elinor is the representation of prudence and reserve. With different personalities, these sisters will eventually find balance in their lives
2) Pride and Prejudice
This book arises from a deep knowledge of domestic life and the human condition. It is a book full of satire, sharp, profound and anti-romantic at the same time.
Pride and Prejudice has captivated several generations thanks to its characters and its humorous description of the society of a rural and Victorian England, which is shown to be absurd and contradictory.
When the handsome and wealthy Mr. Darcy appears in the Bennet family’s life, everything is turned upside down for the five young women in the family. It is then that pride, class differences, hypocrisy, cunning, misunderstandings and prejudices lead the characters to pain and scandal, but also to knowledge, understanding and true love.
3) Mansfield Park
Because the child Fanny Price leads a life full of needs and limitations, her aunt and uncle decide to take her into their Mansfield Park mansion as an act of rescue and consideration for the infant.
Once in her new home, Fanny finds herself surrounded by a world full of refinements in which some amusements that could be described as innocent, will drive plans and strategies of seduction. This whole world is the scenario of a dangerous hidden truth, and only little Fanny, from her silence, will be able to glimpse the threats and consequences of it.
Mansfield Park represents a social and family order that crumbles and is rebuilt through the eyes of a little girl who lives a Cinderella-like experience.
Emma tells the story of a hard-working, intelligent young woman who decides to play Cupid with her friends.
With the wedding of her governess, confidante and friend, Emma Woodhouse finds herself alone, with a void in her life and with the task of trying to make the people around her have a perfect life like her own. However, all the efforts the young woman makes to sentimentally manipulate others only succeed in creating entanglements around her, testing her self-confidence.
After clearing up the confusion created by her actions, Emma manages to find love in her life, as well as in the lives of the people around her.
5) Northanger Abbey
Northanger Abbey tells the story of Catherine Morland, a young woman who is fond of reading Gothic novels, who receives an invitation from the Tilneys to spend some time at their country house. Once there, the young woman will spend much of her time investigating twisted and imaginary family secrets.
But when all her research ends and all of Catherine’s assumptions come to an end, the young woman will come to understand that real life is not a novel, and that everything she created in her mind was the result of her imagination. This will lead the young protagonist to put her feet on the ground to direct her life according to the social norms and doctrines of the time.
Anne, youngest daughter of the presumptuous Sir Walter Elliot, is a sociable and graceful young woman who, despite the barriers, manages to find her hero, Captain Wenworth.
The prejudices and vanity of Anne’s family are the first obstacle in the sincere and real love of the young couple. When her mother dies, Anne is raised by a family friend, for whom she feels immense gratitude and whose advice she listens to without opposition. It is this advice that drives her away from the man she loves, an officer with little money.
After this, the young woman lives long years in solitude while her beauty and youth fade. It is her gentleness, her intelligence and her kindness that remain intact, forming an attractive woman ready for the second chance that destiny offers her.
7) Lady Susan
In this book Austen relates the plans drawn up by the protagonist, Lady Susan, who has recently been widowed. These plans have as their main objective to find a new husband for her, and at the same time the widow tries to marry her daughter, who is sixteen years old.
Lady Susan is an epistolary work in which the author uses different letters that intertwine with each other like pieces of a puzzle, to finally build a story full of little intrigues. In this book the writer overturns all the rules of the romance novel.
Lady Susan has an active role, she is a beautiful, intelligent and witty woman, and all the men who are interested in her are quite a bit younger than her.
8) The Watsons
In this literary work its main protagonist is Emma Watson. The young Emma attends a ball for the first time, where thanks to her beauty and naivety, she becomes the center of attention of all the attendees. But is this really happiness for young Watson? This question arises considering that the plot is set in pre-Victorian England.
From this approach, Jane Austen again describes the condition of women in her time. She speaks of the limited role they play in society and the lack of their own resources that would allow them to develop independently.
The Watsons is a draft novel that the English author left unfinished. And although the novel presents a summary at the end, it may not be enough for some readers.
Sanditon is an unfinished novel by English writer Jane Austen, probably because her illness prevented her from continuing.
The novel centers on Charlotte Heywood, the eldest daughter of the large family of a country gentleman of Willingden, Sussex. The narrative begins when the carriage of Mr. and Mrs. Parker of Sanditon tumbles down a hill near the Heywood home. Because Mr. Parker was injured in the accident and the carriage needs repairs, the Parkers stayed with the Heywood family for two weeks.
During this time, Parker speaks fondly of Sanditon, a town that until a few years ago had been an unpretentious little fishing village. With his partner, Lady Denham, Parker hopes to turn Sanditon into a fashionable resort. After repairing the carriage and healing Mr. Parker’s foot, the Parkers return to Sanditon, bringing with them Charlotte as a summer guest.
10) Letters of Jane Austen
Of all the letters Jane Austen wrote to her family, only approximately 160 survived because her sister Cassandra burned most of them and distributed the remaining ones among her relatives.
Jane’s fans assume that this was due to her sister’s attempt to preserve the image of this remarkable writer, as well as to keep secret matters that she considered too intimate to be exposed to public scrutiny.
The Letters of Jane Austen below were included (along with many others) in a two-volume collection published by her great-nephew Lord Brabourne in 1884.