Friday, 19 July 2013

#100 Books Challenge - an Update

So - I am about a month into my #100books challenge and have already crossed off two books from the list, these were Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment and Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

I will admit that I struggled massively to get into Crime and Punishment and had to very much persevere with it to get to a point where I cared what happened (this was about a quarter of the way in - and it is a BIG book). I was aided by messages on social networks from friends telling me to stick with it - it helped that those that did comment were people I knew were avid readers and whose opinions I really respected, it gave me the impetus to keep going.

What I found so difficult with Dostoyevsky's work was that it seemed to start very abruptly, the characters rambled a lot about pretty dull things and there was a whole heap of what felt like irrelevant, uninteresting stuff going on. The amount of characters also made it hard work to follow and the writing required concentration (not an element I usually mind on its own but with these other issues it made it quite a chore).

This was not my first foray into Russian literature, I loved Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Turganev's Fathers & Sons is one of my favourite 19th Century novels. Crime and Punishment was far less enjoyable than either of these books - but that is not to say I did not, ultimately, enjoy it. I was relieved to reach the end though. 

I am one of the 38.1% of people who simply cannot give up on a book - in the past I have temporarily had to walk away from a book and come back later (most notably the utter bastard that is Virginia Woolf's Orlando) but I cannot handle not actually completing them. I am, according to the Belbin team roles, naturally a completer finisher/resource investigator so I guess this is why I hate to leave a book incomplete, it feels like a failure to me.

Anyway, I stuck with it and got to the point where I realised that Crime and Punishment is actually a very clever story - a bit of a thriller where the reader is in on the crime along with the protagonist and experiences all the moral anguish he goes through as the twists and turns take him on a journey dealing with the guilt and repercussions of what he has done and the law try and track him down. 

It is not an easy read and for that reason I struggled with trying to pick it up for short bursts on the tram each day, it would be better suited to longer, more intensive periods of engagement, I reckon. By the end though I did care what happened to Raskolnikov and I would probably try another Dostoyevsky in the future. Not for a while though.

So - having finally conquered this mammoth I wanted something next which I could breeze through and enjoy - I definitely picked the right book in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy which was so very easy and enjoyable that I actually finished it in two days flat and around an hour and a half. Joyously amusing and scarily prophetic considering it was written in 1979 - I had a couple of moments on public transport where I inadvertently snorted in laughter and caused some funny looks.

I never realised until now that this is one of a series of novels and I will definitely read the rest in the series as I really want to know what happens next. The concept is great, the story starts with Arthur Dent trying to stop the local council from bulldozing his house in order to build a bypass and quickly transcends into the story of the end of the world as we know it. Surreal? Absolutely! But so funny and clever as to be a joyful ride for the reader.

I am glad to have read both of these books, as different as they were they were both very much worth the investment. I will have to dedicate a blog post on its own to the book I moved on to after these...which is Louisa May Allcott's Little Women. I am afraid this book has caused much swearing and incredulity and I need to finish it (unfortunately) before I can fairly surmise - although the thought fills me with despair. Hopefully I will finish this over the weekend and then I shall be back...