cover image The Gambler Wife: A True Story of Love, Risk, and the Woman Who Saved Dostoyevsky

The Gambler Wife: A True Story of Love, Risk, and the Woman Who Saved Dostoyevsky

Andrew D. Kaufman. Riverhead, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-525-53714-4

Russian literature scholar Kaufman (Understanding Tolstoy) offers a sympathetic reading of Anna Snitkina (1846–1918), the young stenographer who became Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s second and final wife, in this fascinating biography. Kaufman relies heavily on Snitkina’s memoir, Reminiscences, as well as letters and diaries to paint a portrait of a both beleaguered and determined young woman. Being married to Dostoyevsky, a traumatized, emotionally volatile gambling addict given to epileptic attacks and tortured by nightmares was no easy task, Kaufman shows, but Snitkina was able to guide him in directions that allowed him to fulfill his commitments and write The Brothers Karamazov, among other career-defining works. While Kaufman highlights just how important Snitkina was to Dostoyevsky’s success as a novelist, to his stability, and to preserving his legacy after he died in 1881, he also emphasizes Snitkina’s own business acumen in starting a publishing company to produce her husband’s work, in paying off his debts, and in selling and promoting his novels. With colorful details (Snitkina had “an uncanny ability to read people clearly, to know what to say and when to remain silent”), Kaufman successfully corrects biographical accounts that have “erased” Snitkina’s flair. Highly readable, this page-turning narrative will appeal to Dostoyevsky fans and literature-lovers in general. Agent: Rob McQuilkin, Massie & McQuilkin. (Aug.)