Wednesday, April 20, 2016
I knew literally nothing about this book when I added it to my Classics Club list. All I knew was that I wanted to read more Russian literature, and that seeing as I've read Tolstoy and Chekov in the past, Dostoevsky seemed like the next logical step.
I had pretty high hopes for this when the back of the copy I borrowed from work described it as something along the lines of "the most accessible novel of all time". It...was not. I should really know by now that the word of academics on the back of Penguin Classics is to be taken with a hefty dose of salt. But no.
This book is the story of Raskolnikov, an indebted student who comes up with a theory that extraordinary people should be outside the law because they add value to society. In order to prove his theory - and counter his money issues - he decides to kill his pawnbroker. Except when he goes to kill her, he finds that her disabled and well loved sister is there too. So he kills her as well. The rest of the book is basically documenting his spiraling guilt and how this changes him.
I really loved the first fifty to one hundred pages of this book. It was tense and a little disturbing, and I was totally on board with it. And I loved the last hundred or so pages, where Raskolnikov's guilt finally drives him to breaking point.
But the 400-odd pages in between? Yeah, that was a little rough. It was slow and - as with my experience of reading Tolstoy - full of lengthy side plots involving characters I didn't really care about. Everyone seemed to have five hundred different names and nicknames, and I struggled - especially when I was only reading 25 or so pages a night - to keep all the characters straight in my head.
So overall, this came out at middle of the road territory for me. I'm glad I read it, and I can see why so many people rave about this book. But I definitely wouldn't describe it as "accessible".
Have you read it? What did you think?