While I enjoyed some aspects of the protagonist, the intellectual explorations of linguistics, and some character portrayals, I was not captivated by The Idiot and could not forgive its length. I think there is incredible promise here, the main protagonist’s unease and confusion with language, her place in the world, and her crush, but ultimately, I do not see it as having gone anywhere. The story picked up for me around page 394 and I was really struggling to get that far, always pushing myself to see when it would pique my interest.
But let me give a summary. The Idiot is a story about Selin and her new experiences and thoughts at college. She is largely direction less, unsure of what to study, not fiercely passionate about many things, and mostly adrift. Meeting Ivan in Russia begins her journey where she must learn to discern what is real and what is her perception, as well as figure out who she is and what she wants to do.However, I could not connect to her character. She is like a lone buoy and even though she has friends and relationships, she rarely seems connected to them. There is a lack of vulnerability, unless it is her isolation, and I could not empathize with her relationship with Ivan. They do not even have, what I consider a real conversation where they are mostly on the same page until almost the end of the book. I was never rooting for Ivan because I felt he was largely inconsiderate, aloof, and disrespectful.
I enjoyed Selin’s humor and her perspective on academia and even Hungary, but since I could not relate to her, it was hard to view it with emotions. In a detached way I appreciated these aspects, but nothing about the book drew me in or encouraged me to keep reading. The length kept it feeling like the book was a string of anecdotes or smaller memories connected by a very loose and thin thread that I lost track of constantly.
The bottom line is that while there were redeeming factors, they were too little too late. I really wanted to like this book, and I kept forcing myself to read it to see if there would be a moment of connection. However, what little connection I had was in the last forty or so pages and it felt a little hollow and disappointing. My main recommendation is to pick this up and see if it is your style. If not, and you will probably figure that out fairly soon, put it back down again. I really hope that this does connect to people in some way, I just am afraid that that person was not me.
Let’s Discuss: Do you enjoy novels with good characters but no real plot?
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If you liked this review, you might like my review of Mexico: Stories.