On our beach vacation this month, I took along two books, one that I’d been working my way through for two months, and another that I knew would be a lighter read.

Crime & PunishmentI’ve been reading Crime & Punishment for my book club (the selection for June and July), and though I have an English degree and love to read, I must admit that I found this book to be one that I had to push myself to read. It’s the story of man who commits a murder (motivated by a theory he has of great men being excused from the morals that govern the rest of mankind), and who is then tormented by his own mind and yet also redeemed through his suffering as he experiences the consequences of his actions. I felt that it was one of those situations where I needed a great professor to open the brilliance of the novel to me. I’ve had that happen before (the book that stands out is Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises), and I wished as I was reading that I could have had that happen with this one. While I thought that Dostoevsky had insights into human nature, I felt that I remained detached while reading this book. I fully admit that this is my deficiency rather than the book’s. So I’m glad I read it (I haven’t read much of the Russians), but I don’t know that this one will take a treasured spot on my bookcase.

The Importance of Being KennedyThe other book I read was The Importance of Being Kennedy by Laurie Graham. I had come across this one in a bookstore, and since I had read a short biography of the Kennedys this past year as part of the 8th grade curriculum, I was more intrigued by this novel than I might otherwise have been. The novel is narrated by a fictional nanny who works for the Kennedys for many years, entering their lives soon after the birth of the oldest son and remaining connected with them through the second World War and the deaths of two of the grown children. While I found the end to be a bit unsatisfying (it felt like it just puttered to a stop), I really enjoyed this book overall and found it to be perfect beach reading. I felt that the author did a great job with the narrator’s character — she feels like a rounded character, yet mostly remains of secondary interest in the novel as she tells the story of this driven family.