Generally considered something of a departure for Dostoyevsky, The Landlady was first published in 1847, when most of the author's classic novels were still in his future. Set in Saint Petersburg, the novella tells of a brooding, reclusive scholar, Vasily Mikhailovich Ordynov, who develops an obsession with a young woman, Katerina. After encountering Katerina and her much-older husband at a church service, Ordynov contrives to become a lodger at their home. Complications arise as Ordynov detects the strange power that Katerina's husband holds over her as he delves into the couple's mysterious past.
Written as an experiment with the Gothic literary form, this novella echoes elements of Russian folklore and features themes and devices that reappear in Dostoyevsky's more mature works. The story, overlooked for many years by literary scholars, has recently emerged as a thought-provoking exploration of Russian faith and historical consciousness.