When Frances first wrote about her plan to read all 42 novellas in Melville Publishing House’s The Art of the Novella series in the month of August I thought she was crazy. I also hesitated taking up the challenge to read as many of them in August as possible because of my less than positive experience trying to read the 20 volumes that make up the Penguin English Journey series in April 2010. But then I thought “why not”? Which proves that fools don’t always rush in, sometimes they amble in. I am going to shoot for reviewing at least 20 of them this month. I must admit I read some of these back in July, but rather than recognize that as cheating, I see it as a testimony to the lure of the varied work that make up TAOTN series.
The Devil is the story of Yevgeny Irtenev, a rather virtuous and industrious young man who is bent on turning around his family’s debt-addled estates. But along the way he gets, well, horny. Before his marriage he meets regularly with a married peasant woman. He makes a seemingly happy marriage until his former mistress shows up one day as a cleaning woman in his house. This reawakens his interest in her and things don’t end well. Indeed not only do things end badly but Tolstoy gives the reader a choice of endings. Neither of them happy. Which ending you prefer no doubt says a lot about who you are.
The Verdict: I liked The Devil for its storyteller-ish quality.