I took ages to read it but I have finished it at last (SPOILERS.)
Its basically the story of a student called Raskalnikov who murders a nasty pawn-broker called Alonya Ivanovna with an axe. He also murders her sister, Lizaveta. He leaves the crime-scene with some of the pawn broker’s money but hides it under a rock.
The remainder of the book focuses on him worrying obsessively about the murder. There are also several moments of him wanting to impulsively kill people but a relationship develops between Raskalnikov and a prostitute called Sonia who has a good heart despite her profession.
Many smaller story arcs happen throughout the story, such as Katerina Marmeldova (Sonya’s stepmother) being consumptive and forcing her little children to dance on the street for money, as well as the death of Raskalnikov’s mother and his developing relationship with Sonya when he is in prison.
Personally, I don’t think you should read this book if you are not doing it for some higher education reasons (i.e: A-Level, AS or an English lit degree) because it is not a frothy chick-lit novel that you can put down and forget about after five minutes. Despite the premise of a man trying to justify the murder of two people and the confession of another man to the crime, it is a good book all the same and gives the reader a lot to think about.
Apparently there are over 30 adaptations of the book, which I found suprising. The character of Raskalnikov was also the basis of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver.
The Russian authors are fantastic and have a lot to say about life, hate, murder etc. However, people seem more likely to read them for A-Levels etc or just to say that they have read them so they can occasionally bring it up in the conversation.