Originally read on a whim, this is a book I've returned to more than once and savored each time. It is suitably dark and unexpected and strange, as are all great books involving Russia, and the plot is compelling. It is not, however, hard or heavy work, as some of the classics can be, but is instead undeniably an excellent story, with absolutely masterful pacing (a crucial element of a great read, though often forgotten in rememberings and discussions of novels).
This is a love story about starvation and cannibalism, war and unnecessary exile, and castration as an act of religious fervor. And it is beautiful.