Customer Review

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic that lives up to the name, 5 Dec 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Crime and Punishment (Penguin Popular Classics) (Paperback)
Personally, I hate it when you read or see something that's supposed to be a wonderful classic and you just. Don't. Get it. It's a very frustrating feeling to wonder whether you're being dim or is it the rest of the world who can't see the obvious fact that the emperor has no clothes?
Thankfully, I didn't have that experience reading Crime & Punishment. In fact, I'm sorry I put it off for so long but like many people, I assumed that as a 'classic' it might be a bit boring and hard to read. This wasn't - it's extremely easy to read and in parts (to my surprise) very funny.
The story plunges you in right away, as Raskolnikov, clearly in the middle of a (self-imposed?) crisis, ponders whether to commit murder. He has been sitting for months in a horrible, dark, small room, thinking too much, talking to himself, going over and over the same convoluted theories. Then he acts. And suddenly what was just a theory is brutal reality - and, contrary to what is suggested by some reviewers here, the thing that really tips him over the edge is not the magnitude of what he has done, nor the fact that his plans went wrong, but his own weakness. He is surprised and ashamed to find how sordid and small it all is and that he is not the great man, the 'Napoleon' he dreamed of being.
Things go on as he restlessly wanders from one shabby St. Petersburg room to another, seeing and avoiding his mother and sister, a helpful friend and a poor family he ends up entangled with. They try so hard to understand what's going on with Raskolnikov - the kindness and love that they feel for him is almost heartbreaking. I think that some people might give up on the book because they find it hard to like Raskolnikov. But you are not meant to like him, or empathise with him, just because the book is seen through his eyes. You have to go behind that and understand how the actions of this one man have an impact on the people who love him. Meanwhile, there is a crafty policeman - surely a forerunner of Columbo with his 'and one last thing ...' - who is suspicious but, with no proof, 'plays' Raskolnikov expertly.
Some people don't like the ending. I was glad of it, myself, because it gave such hope and was so realistic - few of us are murderers, but we make other mistakes. There is a way out. A grim suicide is not the only option, people can change themselves and change their lives. Anyway, it's left ambiguous: Raskolnikov has a sort of revelation, but it's still up to him how he lives the rest of his life. It's not all neatly tied up.
Finally, I want to say how modern this book seemed. Certainly there are, of course, references to the society of the day, but it's surprising just how modern the attitudes and feelings of its characters are. I hope I have convinced you to read it if you were doubtful.
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