Having free access to the classics on my new Kindle is a great opportunity to catch up on all those famous titles that I’ve heard so much about but never read.
Crime and Punishment was my first choice, a title that is familiar to everyone, and yet I had no idea what the story was about (apart from a crime and a punishment, obviously!). I found it fascinating, a detailed portrayal of what can bring an apparently sane, intelligent man to commit murder – although I did struggle a little with the Russian names. Everybody seemed to have at least three! The murder scene itself was quite horrific, even though it was described in a very straightforward and ungarnished way. The skill of Dostoevsky‘s writing is that he takes you right into Raskolnikov’s head so that you are actually with him in the room, facing the old woman and trying to summon up the courage to do the deed. With that level of involvement you don’t need excessive gore to make it real.
My next title was Dracula. After enjoying The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova I was keen to read the original text that has inspired so many novels and films. Although Bram Stoker did not invent the vampire, he was the first (I believe) to connect the original Vlad the Impaler of the Dracula family with the vampire legend. The book is an absolute belter, a page-turner with a wonderful growing sense of dread and menace. The format, a collection of letters, diary entries, newspaper cuttings and telegrams, makes it very easy to read, and I loved the settings like the gothic lunatic asylum with its resident spider-eating madman, windswept Whitby and, of course, Dracula’s Transylvanian castle. There are many seminal scenes such as Dracula’s ship arriving at Whitby with the dead captain lashed to the wheel and the final scene where our heroes gallop after the carriage containing Dracula’s coffin, trying to beat the sunset before the villain can reach the safety of his castle.
Where Crime and Punishment was a fascinating read, it had its own challenges in terms of lengthy backstories, long monologues and confusion between characters, whereas Dracula is just a thumping good read, with some truly beautiful writing.
Visit Parodies Lost to read a bit of Dracula lampoony.