One thing I appreciate about Russian novels (and I’m thinking here of Tolstoy & Dostoevsky) is that they are real. They present realistic portraits of people, not one-dimensional flat characters. They take situations that people experience and make them understandable. Let me explain.
We often say to ourselves, upon hearing of something someone has done (usually horrific), “I can’t believe they did that!” by which we mean, “I don’t understand that person and I would never do that!” It seems that in order to understand them we have to either have a similar experience, or know the person so intimately that we can “experience” it ourselves.
Tolstoy and Dostoevsky have a way of making option two come to life for their readers. They force us to understand how people get to the point in their lives where they do the things they do (horrific or otherwise). By allowing the reader to experience this they can relate to other people better. In fact, the reader can, if they are open enough, begin to see how they themselves are not that far off from doing the same things they once said they did not understand and could not do.
Have you read these guys? What do you think? Here’s a few of their most popular works, each highly recommended.