I’ve always been an avid reader, but classics intimidate me. My high school English classes went through quite a few – although, that means I have only a tenth-grade understanding of books like Moby Dick (is it worth trying again?) and zero understanding of The Scarlet Letter (I confess, I barely skimmed the CliffsNotes) or Far From the Madding Crowd (I had a friend summarize it for me. Thanks, Alicia). I feel like, as an adult – an intelligent and literate adult, at that – I have a responsibility to read the classics. Surely they are justly deemed to be great works of literature, right? I think my hesitance comes from my underwhelmed reaction to many of the classics I read in high school.
I started reading Crime and Punishment before I had kids. It may have even been before I was married. I absolutely loved the first few chapters – and then, the book was suddenly overdue. I tend to check out a half dozen books at a time and rack up immense library fines. (Don’t worry; I’ve since banned myself from the library.) A year or so after I started Crime and Punishment, I checked it out again, but I couldn’t find my place, so I began reading from the beginning. I got to approximately the same spot and, once again, I got distracted by other books and ended up paying a fine for my late returns. Fortunately, last year for my birthday the Romgi bought me a Kindle, and I downloaded a free copy of Crime and Punishment – no fees, regardless of how long it took me to read.
Well, it was several months. I started from the beginning and was determined to get through it, partly because I made it a goal on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days. And I still loved it. I’d gotten used to the feel of the first few chapters and I was surprised, pleasantly, when the tone shifted a little and the plot expanded. I had no idea there would be a large cast of characters (I really am ignorant, aren’t I?) or that the plot would involve more than just the eponymous crime. (Please tell me I’ve correctly used the word eponymous here. It might be the first time I’ve actually used it and I’d hate to ruin the experience.) Obviously, punishment is part of the story as well, but the book was much different from the vague idea I had in my head. (I have no idea where or how I formed my idea of the book.)
Are you still with me? You’re so great.
Crime and Punishment did not disappoint. It was wonderfully written – the storytelling and translation were both excellent. This definitely deserves its status as a classic. It shouldn’t intimidate you. I found that reading up on Dostoevsky after finishing the book, rather than before, made me appreciate the story much more. Do you like to learn some background information about the author before you read a book?
When I feel up to it, I want to re-read The Stranger and compare it to Crime and Punishment. I suppose it’s been done before. It seems like an obvious comparison – but quite fascinating. Have you read both? What’s your opinion?