Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vintage Books, 1993, 551 pp (translated from the Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, first published in Russia 1866.)
Summary from Goodreads: The poverty-stricken Raskolnikov, a talented student, devises a theory about extraordinary men being above the law, since in their brilliance they think “new thoughts” and so contribute to society. He then sets out to prove his theory by murdering a vile, cynical old pawnbroker and her sister. The act brings Raskolnikov into contact with his own buried conscience and with two characters — the deeply religious Sonia, who has endured great suffering, and Porfiry, the intelligent and discerning official who is charged with investigating the murder — both of whom compel Raskolnikov to feel the split in his nature. Dostoevsky provides readers with a suspenseful, penetrating psychological analysis that goes beyond the crime — which in the course of the novel demands drastic punishment — to reveal something about the human condition: The more we intellectualize, the more imprisoned we become.
Another milestone in my reading history. A member of one of my reading groups (the one who got me to read Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol) convinced us to tackle Dostoevsky, claiming that Crime and Punishment was his most accessible novel, as long as we read the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation.
Thanks goodness for the character list in the front of the book and the notes in the back. The characters often have multiple names as well as nicknames (called diminutives.) Like Shakespeare, there are cultural and literary references in the text that were mostly unknown to me.
[One reader's oddity: The main character in Viet Hguyen's The Sympathizer often referred to a seminal communist text What Is To Be Done by Nikolay Chernyshevsky, 1863. The same book is mentioned in Crime and Punishment as an influence in both Dostoevsky's and Raskolnikov's time.]
I found Crime and Punishment to be very readable. I plowed through it in four days, covering over 100 pages a day. It is truly a study in the folly of youthful idealism, the psychological effects of guilt, and the investigation of crime. I imagined all of my favorite crime/mystery authors reading and absorbing the book into their psyches.
Melodrama and stereotypical female characters aside, it was a compelling read. I doubt I will ever forget it.
A personal quirk: Many characters lived in small rooms called "closets." Some even lived in corners of other peoples' closets. I just kept picturing that actual closet where Harry Potter had to live when he was a child. Did J K Rowling read Crime and Punishment?
(Crime and Punishment is available in paperback on the shelves at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)