I wish I could read Russian, because I suspect Crime & Punishment would be a much more elegant novel if read in the language in which it was written. Maybe I had a particularly bad translation. There were many clumsy attempts to replace Russian colloquialisms with English ones which made this novel feel like the literary equivalent of one of those kung-fu movies in which the characters' lip movements don't even come close to the sounds they're making.
But let's overlook the language barrier and focus on the plot: Rodion Roskolnikov is a young ex-student who murders an unpleasant old lady and then undergoes enough intense mental anguish to drive himself mad. Side plots involve Dunya, Roskolnikov's sister who is pursued by a married man and engaged to a despicable one, and the Marmaladov family, who live in poverty and squalor. Dostoevsky is a genius for depicting misery. Speaking of torment, his characters engage in intense, bewildering dialogue that goes on for pages and pages. And yet, I'm glad I read this, and despite my complaining, it wasn't as painful as I was expecting it to be. Dostoevsky's treatment of Raskolnikov is almost like that of a scientist: let us place someone into an appalling situation and see what happens. I think we can all relate to Roskolnikov. If you have ever obsessed about something to the point at which you are barely rational, or known someone who has, then this book will touch a nerve.
A selection of book covers: