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Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor DostoyevskyCrime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Genre: Classic
Release Date: 30th January, 2003
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Source: Bought
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Rating: three-stars
'Crime? What crime?...My killing a loathsome, harmful louse, a filthy old moneylender woman...and you call that a crime?'

Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, wanders through the slums of St Petersburg and commits a random murder without remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be a great man, a Napoleon: acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov 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 prostitute, can offer the chance of redemption.

I’ve had this book on my shelves for a while; it was on the booklist my Literature & Psychology course in university but I just never got around to reading it  because I couldn’t be bothered. Anyway, this turned out to be a pretty readable Classic, I mostly enjoyed it.

So, what is with the Russians and abjectly depressing literature? Seriously. The main character, Raskolnikov (which I have to split into like, three different words just to be able to spell >.>) is a poor student living basically one step up from downright poverty; he suffers from a multitude of ailments, both physical and mental, and ends up killing his landlady. As you do. In the aftermath of her murder, Raskolnikov finds himself haunted by his own conscience, and is driven to the brink of madness by his guilty conscience.

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Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita by Vladimir NabokovLolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Release Date: 3rd February, 2000
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Source: Bought
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Rating: four-stars

When it was published in 1955, Lolita immediately became a cause celebre because of the freedom and sophistication with which it handled the unusual erotic predilections of its protagonist. But Vladimir Nabokov's wise, ironic, elegant masterpiece owes its stature as one of the twentieth century's novels of record not to the controversy its material aroused but to its author's use of that material to tell a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness. Awe and exhilaration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in this account of the aging Humbert Humbert's obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America, but most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”

This book, you guys. This book. I have honestly never read anything quite like it in a lifetime of reading and I seriously doubt I’ll read anything like it ever again. Russian literature, man.

So I’m pretty sure that by now nearly everyone has a dim idea of what Lolita is about; the name has become so embedded in pop culture that it’s almost impossible not to. This is a novel with a protagonist who is unquestionably a paedophile, a character whose skill with language twists his story into a romance, whose narrative is built on a singular vision of events that unfold because this novel challenges the reader’s perception of events and Humbert Humbert needs you to believe him. As the reader we are the judge, the jury and the verdict and this is the foundation of Lolita: Humbert Humbert is an unreliable narrator.

The novel tells the tale of Humbert Humbert, a European who moves to America for a job, renting a room from a woman with a young daughter he becomes immediately infatuated with. Our narrator’s story is interspersed with flashbacks to his childhood; the romance he had with another girl as a child that he believes is the foundation for his attraction to ‘nymphets’ – young girls who possess an undefinable aura of sexuality that call to men. It is a story about how paedophiles groom their victims, how they isolate them from the world. It is a story in which the victim’s voice bleeds out from the cracks in Humbert Humbert’s narrative; as he romanticises the abuse he inflicts on her, he also describes the nights she spends sobbing.

The characters are brilliantly written. Humbert is a terrible, awful person who uses his education and social status to mask his depravity. He is so successful at blending in that no-one even comes close to guessing the true nature of his relationship with his charge except, notably, other paedophiles. Lolita, or Dolores (Dolly as a nickname) is a hard, broken girl who pretty much broke my heart. It is a deliberate technique in the writing that Humbert almost never refers to her by her real name, instead emphasising the sensuality he believes she exudes to seduce him over and over again.

This isn’t the kind of novel anyone could pick up and enjoy; the subject matter sits heavily on you for hours after reading. Lolita is however a book that should be read because it is so extraordinary.

A Twentieth Century Classic

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A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Genre: Classic
Release Date: 1854
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Source: Bought
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Rating: two-stars

After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.

Something about the French Revolution?? Mostly a love triangle?? This was a very confusing novel, guys. And by confusing I mean really, really boring. The two go together. The plot is something like some old dude is found by his daughter Lucie, who is very beautiful and frail and everyone loves her because of course they do, and they go off to England where she marries a slightly less old although equally boring dude BUT THEN he goes to France because of reasons and is arrested, tried and sentenced to death by Guillotine. So Lucie is super upset about this turn of events and she and her dad go to France to save her boring husband BUT obviously because they are boring, keep up with me here, they spend a lot of time wringing their hands UNTIL some bloke comes along and is like I HAVE LOVED LUCIE I WILL SAVE HER HUSBAND because I think he is actually Damon Salvatore; he devises a plan Amber would be proud of, in which he takes on the name of Lucie’s boring husband and dies by Guillotine while actual husband escapes and they all live happily ever after. Except Damon. Because he’s dead.
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