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.
Can’t say I loved this book. It took probably the first 1/3 of the book to get to a point where the story became interesting. However, after that it was quite good. I did love the character of the old Russian grandmother. She was hilarious and crabby and irascible, and I got a huge kick out of the fact that she denied her son any vestige of an inheritance, particularly since he was the one person (of all who stood to gain from her death) who wanted it so desperately that he was keeping regular tabs on her health and hoping she would die so he could get his hands on her money. The Gambler – Alexei Ivanovich – was not actually a very likeable character, and became less likeable (to me) as the book progressed. However, I thought Dostoyevsky did a really good job of illustrating how easy it is to fall into the thrall of gambling.
I don’t know that I’d necessarily recommend it. It is the first work of Dostoyevsky that I’ve read, and my impression is that it is not nearly his best work. However, I am glad that I read it, and I’ll definitely read more Dostoyevsky in the future.