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on 3 November 2017
“Crime and Punishment” is the story of Raskolnikov, also known as Rodion Romanovich and Rodya, and is told in the third person by an omnipotent narrator. At the start Raskolnikov is an impoverished ex student who is troubled by lack of food, decent lodgings and the fear that his sister is selling herself into marriage to improve his lot. This theme of women selling themselves for the sake of their families weaves itself through the narrative. He has dealings with an elderly woman who he uses as a pawn broker and who, he decides, doesn’t deserve to live. He decides this coldly and intellectually and yet even before he commits the crime the idea begins to warp his psyche. One life to save his family from ruin, well it becomes two lives but for some reason the second is ignored in all his guilty suffering after the crime.

The story follows Raskolnikov’s emotional collapse and psychological disorder. He is plagued with paranoia and fear of discovery. Everyone around him becomes a potential threat and by the time a man eventually confronts him with belief of his culpability he has already suffered one thousand accusations in his own mind. The net closes but very slowly. His class seems to protect him more than he deserves. He pushes everyone away and yet feels constantly surrounded, hounded even.

It’s an intense and claustrophobic read. It doesn’t move forward as much as spiral inwards. The characters are left sketchily drawn as Raskolnikov avoids them when possible and we rarely get to see below their surfaces. Raskolnikov's own journey is not one of growth. If you are expecting a character arc you will be disappointed, but what you get instead is powerful in its own right.
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on 21 February 2014
Crime and Punishment is set in Russia in the 1800's. It is written from the perspective of the protagonist Raskolnikov; a young student. Despite its reputation as being hard going, I found it easy to read and impossible to put down.

Due to financial hardship and circumstance Raskolnikov commits murder. Russia was economically and politically unstable at the time of writing and one of the greatest arguments in favor of socialism is that, if people were equal would crime be eliminated? Would the reason for acting criminally no longer exist? The novel spreads this message, without focusing politics as a major theme. Drawing upon the writings of Marx and Engels, Russia became Communist in 1917 under Lenin, succeeded by Stalin after Lenin's death in 1925.

As the title suggests the crime - one man murdering another and; punishment - the guilt, paranoia, mental deterioration and then incarceration are the major themes, the content of the entire novel. Other plot-lines such as romance take a significant back seat. Love does indeed suffer as a consequence of the crime, part of the punishment I guess.

A tale of love, justice, psychology and suffering; this is a wonderful read, and despite what Willy Mason says, you should read Dostoevsky at your age.
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on 5 September 2015
THis runs hard to being one of the finest, if not the finest, novels I have yet read (and I've read thousands). It is a superb psychological study of the deteriorating mental, and commensurate physical, health of Raskolnikov in the time leading up to and following the horrific double murder he commits. Dostoevsky contrives, nonetheless, to make him one of the most sympathic character's in literature. The reader is shoved right into the action, shortly before the murders. Raskolnikov is an extraordinary character in one the most extraordinary novels, very, very readable and a real page turner.
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on 9 March 2013
Reading the classics is often quite hard work. Commonly there will be a turn of phrase of wording, or dialects which are non-too familiar to the modern reader. This is surprisingly easy to read, the main challenge by modern standards is therefore simply one of length.
Whereas I can often finish a Kindle novel in a couple of sessions this was much longer, but never boring. I found it demanded longer sessions of attention though, so at times I had this for when I had half an hour or more, and other shorter/lighter books for those snatched moments on the bus, train or before meetings!
I didn't really know what to expect. What I got was a great story, with romance, mystery, and of course both crime and punishment! Genuinely glad to have finally read this, and this Penguin edition is excellent. The annotated text is easy to follow, and the notes are regular enough to be useful, but not so often as to be annoying.
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on 25 March 2013
Why kill someone? Because you can, of course, and to see if you have what it takes to be above the law. But then what? Well then you meet with your conscience and with the inspiration behind one of TV's greatest detectives, the wonderful Columbo, and we all know what happens then.

The crime is the crime, obvious enough. The punishment is living with the crime as a human being who is not above the law but is at heart above said crime. Dostoyevsky weaves this tale wonderfully of being eaten alive by one's own paranoia and self-loathing; of becoming beneath love even of one's mother so that every day is a torment.

There is a reason why this book is still in print today in myriad languages and translations and that is, with the exception of Macbeth, there is nothing comparable. `Out, damn spot' sprang to mind many times whilst reading and a quick scooch about Google tells me this is a common study theme so far from an original observation!

Crime and Punishment explores the psychology affecting a murderer against the backdrop of Nineteenth Century St Petersburg and the contrasts of wealth and poverty. Dostoyevsky is one of the best at introspective analysis by far although it makes for little in the way of light reading.

You cannot read this and not wonder whether you would act and react in the same way as Raskalnikov. That's not to say it encourages anyone to try it and find out! However it does raise a number of questions in the reading of it, whether you think on them after putting the book down or not.

Some parts of the story seem quite unnecessary though become important later on, so you mustn't skip them. This seems to be a commonality in Russian classics: a certain onus placed upon the reader to pay attention. This is not to everyone's liking, so fair warning before you read!

Crime and Punishment is multi-layered and offers a huge amount of insight on a number of subjects. It's the exam setter's dream of a set text for the sheer amount of exploration that can be done through the eyes of this novel. In my `old' age, I wish it had been a book we studied at school because I'd find any amount to say about it under the heading `discuss'. However, I suspect in my youth I would have disagreed with my older self.

A thought provoking read worth investing the time.
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on 12 March 2014
In my experience, all "great" fiction works on more than one level, and continues to compel readers' attention for many decades after it was written - something I certainly found true of Crime and Punishment.

Other reviewers have said how gripping the story of Raskolnikov is. He is a psychopath of a type familiar from a thousand 20th and 21st century thrillers, in print and on screen. I could well believe that Hitchcock read this book and learned from it, because the build-up of tension is Hitchcockian.

Nabakov was not a fan of Dostoevsky, thinking him a bit of a bore and an eccentric - and not a particularly accomplished writer. Humbly, I have to disagree. As well as being a brilliant psychological drama, it's a critique of Russian society and the intellectual climate in the 1860s, just a few years after the emancipation of the serfs, when ideas like nihilism were in the air. If Raskolnikov had 'lived' 60 years later, he might have found a focus for his life in Bolshevism. Although that, as we know, might have involved him in mass-murder, or even genocide as one of Stalin's henchmen, rather than the single murder he commits in Crime and Punishment.
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on 14 November 2013
Crime and Punishment is a book which contains a huge amount of humanity. The story of a sordid and violent crime, the mental breakdown of an impoverished, excitable student drop-out, all set against a backdrop of a colourful and crime-riddled city teeming with shady characters, warm-hearted women, violent drunks, destitution, suffering, depravity, humanity.

The story follows the different phases of mental anguish suffered by Raskolnikov, the young Russian ex-student at the centre of the novel. With his dreams of greatness dashed by poverty and destitution, Raskolnikov dreams up a terrible crime which would allow him access to the funds he craves in order to, as he sees it, fully realise his potential. The novel follows him as he struggles to come to terms with the consequences of the crime and his grappling with the idea that his justification for it may not be as solid as he thought. All the while he is trying to protect himself from the long arm of the law in a game of cat-and-mouse with the police investigator.

There are lots of different themes to the novel, which makes it an immensely rewarding read for anyone who likes food for thought in their books. It is highly readable as a story and as absorbing and rewarding as a great work of art.
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on 19 July 2010
I rarely read the long and wordy Introduction to these classics because they ruin the story for me, however I do recommend that you read it this time both before and AFTER the actual story.
The scholar, Keith Carabine, knows his onions, and his Dostoevsky. He addresses the fact that the ending is shocking because it is so poor and entirely at odds with the entire theme and mood of the novel.
It's as if the author had a sudden religious conversion or was told to make the book acceptable to the Russian Orthodox church: as the anti-hero, for no apparent reason, converts to Christianity having been a staunch atheist and cynic throughout.
Carabine also brings out Raskolnikov's dream of a plague of intelligent microbes turning man against man in a godless Universe which for me is prophetic as it predicts the chaos and turmoil of the post Tzar communist state; although this happened much later in 1917.
Crime and Punishment was written in 1866 and it reads as if it was written yesterday. It is very contemporary. The hero/anti-hero is an incredibly dark brooding character who is so detached from humanity that he is willing to execute an old woman (and her young niece) on a whim. This whim is his Nietzschean theory that some men are superior because they have truly novel, ground breaking, theories and influence: Darwin, Copernicus, and especially Napoleon; and these great men have the right to kill for a higher purpose because normal laws do not apply to them. He tests his theory and kills in cold-blood to provide him with a sum of money to enable his career to progress more easily. This is his crime. His punishment is the reaction of his own conscience (and his Soul) which he has effectively killed along with his victims. His life after his crime is hell on Earth, moral purgatory.
Dostoevsky writes beautifully and creates a masterful character who could be seen as the forerunner of all modern 'psycho's' such as Hannibal Lector et al; except Raskolnikov is no madman. Everything is logical and rational with him, and he does not kill with impunity; he pays for his crime through his deep self-hatred.
There is much of the author in the story. Dostoevsky's mother died of TB and the author served a prison term in Siberia for his philosophical views. Illness, the law and prison feature throughout the gripping narrative.
One negative is a tendency towards 'flowery' language and pages of pointless social interaction particularly when Raskolnikov is absent: he is the star that makes this a great book!
The only flaw is the epilogue. It's a bolt-on ending that turns a gritty, realistic human tragedy into a fairy tale.
It is however a classic written by a master of the psychological thriller.
Not a single swear word, curse or reference to carnal activities in the entire work!
Quite something!
JP ;)
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on 3 November 2016
Buoyed on by an interview I read with Una Stubbs, of all things, who said that Dostoyevsky is actually very readable, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is indeed very readable and doesn't suffer from the typical issue with Russian literature in that you don't get lost in a million different names for each character. Great story, with some weighty issues discussed, and that unique intenseness that you get in Russian literature.
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on 21 January 2016
My joint favourite book of all time. Already had a battered copy but wanted a kindle edition. It's a masterpiece in the subject of introspection, guilt, psychological turmoil and a double murder.

This is quite simply (along with 'In Cold Blood' / Truman Capote) a class piece of literature which can be read time & time again yet continue to reveal new facets we missed 1st, 2nd, 3rd time round amidst so many other complex issues.

Can't praise Dostoevsky highly enough.
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