Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
What I thought: When my friend recommended this book I thought about it briefly, but was intimidated by reading a long, Russian classic that I was utterly unfamiliar with. And indeed, the length of this novel (my library copy came in at 629 pages) is intimidating. So when I decided to read it this year, I joined another group read and was a little nervous, expecting some long, dense passages like those I had come up against in The Brothers Karamazov.
What I found: This is an incredibly readable, compelling story of a man, Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov, who considers committing a terrible deed that has been haunting his dreams for some time. "Rodya" is a very flawed yet sympathetic character, and the reader is drawn into his life as well as meeting many other memorable characters along the way. There are philosophical passages, yes, but they're thoughtful without being too dense, and Dostoevsky knows how to write fast-paced passages when the situation calls for it. A few times I was practically holding my breath reading as fast as I could to find out what happens next, other times I was slowing myself down to think about what he was saying and whether I agreed that a certain class of people was above the law and thus above guilt. All the while, I had the sense that the author knew exactly what he was doing in crafting the story and looked forward to seeing how he brought it all together. If I had to briefly summarize Crime and Punishment, I would say that it is a psychological investigation of motives, guilt, and choices that humans make. All in all, I'm very glad that I listened to my friend instead of my misgivings.