Chosen by Jo
A Russian student commits a murder believing humanitarian ends justify the crime
✔ “Raskolnikov is a destitute and impoverished former student who wanders through the slums of St Petersburg in this 1866 Russian classic. Without warning he commits a random murder with no immediate remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be a great man, acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law, and that humanitarian ends justify vile means.
Unlike crime stories of the time, there is no mystery as to the crime or the perpetrator. Instead the story concentrates more on the psychology of the murderer than in the specifics of the crime. The book was initially published in serial form so keeping the readers entertained and guessing was a priority of the writing style.
As such Raskolnikov embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator. Though he is pursued by the growing voice of his conscience and finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck. Only Sonya, a downtrodden sex worker, can offer the chance of redemption.
Like many of the great nineteenth-century novelists, Dostoyevsky often uses a series of incredible coincidences to move the plot forward. Nonetheless, the story takes on a compelling life of its own. Dostoyevsky’s use of parable, dream sequences and a cast of memorable characters is also noteable.
It is also an expose of social conditions in nineteenth-century Russia, a satirical analysis of liberal and radical politics, and a religious call for redemption through suffering. As a dramatic study of the nature of good and evil, it is commonly considered the quintessential Russian novel.
Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.
It is fair to say the bookclubbers were all a little nervous at the prospect of reading a many-paged Russian classic! However we were all surprised to find it was less daunting than we thought and we all liked it – albeit at varying levels. It may have sounded ominous but it was actually engaging and entertaining. The crime is committed early but there is still a catchy plot, examining the crime from every angle throughout the rest of the book as Raskolnikov himself tries to understand it and seeks redemption in the form of punishment. The serial publication of Crime & Punishment had to be taken into consideration when some pages got wordy and dragged on.”
The Russian Messenger