This is the atmosphere of Crime And Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, The Devils, and so forth: lurid stories about ghosts, imposters and assassins, full of ‘repetitions and digressions’, like Charles Dickens if he’d gone round the bend.
Anna sorted the finances, helped her husband find publishers, edited the tangled texts and was responsible for the organisation of Dostoevsky’s final years, which were blighted by bladder infections, emphysema and nose bleeds.
In Russia, he was ‘hailed as a national prophet’ and the Tsar invited him to dinner at the Winter Palace — not bad for a former convict. When he died in January 1881, thousands thronged the streets to watch his funeral procession.
My favourite detail in this quick-moving book: Dostoevsky and Anna kept a cow in their upstairs apartment, ‘so their children could have fresh milk’.