The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky [⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐]

By trumanrose | The Readr | 9 Sep 2021

The Gambler (1866) revolves around Alexei Ivanovich, a tutor employed by a Russian family living in a hotel suite. For me, the story is mainly character-driven, as opposed to plot-driven. We see how the set of characters deal with money and their self-reflection upon losing their bets (metaphorically speaking).

I picked up this book because of my Top 12 Classics TBR list I collected by the start of 2021 (I'm a few months behind). I keep hoarding classics (especially Russian classics) but they always seem to sit on my shelf and stare at me for a long time. So, I created a list to encourage myself to dip my toes on this genre, starting with all the short ones.

I felt very intrigued by the gambling aspect more than the moral of the story itself. Even before, I was already interested in different kinds of gambling games like poker and blackjack, so it was fun for me to learn about roulette. Right after finishing the book, I immediately searched on YouTube if there was a 'modern' set of rules and strategies nowadays.

Can maths help you win at roulette?

My expectation before reading this book was that I would explore how gambling affects people, more like the long-term after-effects such as its impact on mental health, family, lifestyle, etc. This book gave me a better interpretation of that by simply immersing the reader into what it's like when you're sitting there on the table, and winning (and losing) a lot of money in a span of a few minutes.

I was looking forward to reading more of Fyodor Dostoevsky since my impression of Russian classics is even though they look intimidating, the writing is actually not too dense and you can easily go with the flow. Hopefully, soon I could continue reading more of his work, most especially The Double.

I gave this a 5-star rating because it instantly became one of my favorites. The characters, topic, writing are all very enjoyable to me and I look forward to re-reading it again in the future, whether it's for entertainment or analysis purposes. Aside from the immersive writing of this book, I enjoyed each of the characters' personalities and how they interact with each other. I think my favorite was la baboulinka (The Grandmother), I was grinning a lot of the time with her scenes, and also emphasized her bad moments.

In summary, my favorite things about this book are:

  • Writing - trust me, your heart will leap as if you've also placed your bet and won a huge amount of money, and also feel devastating on the losing streaks.
  • Characters - you can easily empathize with the characters and why they act the way they do. Their backgrounds and how they relate to each other were also interesting to me.

Read The Gambler if you want some insights on gambling (particularly the roulette) and Russian culture, in general. Fun fact: the inspiration for this story was from Dostoevsky's gambling addiction and he paid off his gambling debt from this novella. Hopefully, that piques your interest in how intimate the story is concerning the author.


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