Set in 1869, this is the story of Dostoevsky returning to Petersburg from his self-imposed exile in Dresden upon the death (murder? suicide?) of his stepson who had become involved with the anarchist Nechaev. Dostoevsky stays in his son's apartment, wears his clothes, and develops relationships with his friends and acquaintances. The novel becomes a mediation on a writer's powers, responsibilities and what he must sacrifice to write. It is a dark and grim novel written in the style of Dostoevsky. Once again, there is too much of Coetzee displaying his cleverness.