Book review: The Idiot

This is the review for The Idiot written by Elif Batuman, not Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. I decided to read this because it was mentioned in my college’s recommended summer reading list which you can see here.

It is the story an 18-year-old, Selin, who starts her freshman year at Harvard University. In the approximately 400 pages, Selin explores new friendships, college pressure, life away from home, “first love”, freshman summer, and her passion for writing. I won’t further delve into the plot because that is for you to read.

I found the book to be very moderate and so I’ll divide this review into two parts:

What I liked:

  • The theme: That may be because I am starting my freshman year and I could relate to a lot of things. But even otherwise, I think it is very universal. Everyone has gone through that. One may consider it a coming-of-age thing, but I think it is just one step ahead of that. I really liked how Selin’s chain of thoughts flow with the theme.
  • The writing: Easy to read, very good flow. It was funny. Batuman did a good job at this. I like the way the novel was divided into parts. The Russian Literature references integrated the novel. There were so many facts mentioned casually which I appreciate.
  • The characters: They were well described and very specific. Now, this is important. A lot of people try to make the characters too comprehensive- they are young and cool, and old and wise at the same time. This is a fault.  I liked a lot of the characters especially, Svetlana.

What I disliked:

  • The latter ‘Summer’ part: Too many new characters and a bit too stretched. Some people might like it but personally, I found it somewhat over-descriptive.
  • The Selin-Ivan thing: This little love plot was definitely necessary for the story but in some parts, it went a bit overboard and seemed “cheesy”. It almost started sounding like something John Green would write. (Fact about me: I read every John Green book under peer pressure. I hate each one of them. If you are interested, kindly contact me. I’ll give you all the books for free.)

I recommend it to college and high school students. Other people CAN find it boring, although that’s unlikely. Read it if you are up for some casual light reading. I have its ePub. If you want it, you can comment below.

I give it: ★★★/★★★★★

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