So sometimes it sucks to be well read, or at least appear so. A friend visited last weekend and she mentioned the ending, thinking I was re-reading it, which marred the ending for me. I had no idea how the story ended and although I would’ve had a good idea leading up to the moment she mentioned, I spent more time wondering when ‘it’ would happen rather than enjoying the story for the last 300+ pages.
Anna Karenina counts for the Mount TBR, Tea and Books, Back to the Classics and The Classics Club – and more importantly it puts me over the 50% mark on ALL 2012 challenges. (Right on goal for the year!)
Overall I’m really glad I read this. If not for the challenges I joined this year I doubt I ever would have gotten around to reading it. Not only did it make me have a new desire to learn more about Russia and it’s people, but it made me want to actually visit Russia. (At least theoretically, I’m still leaving Doctor Zhivago on my Back to the Classics as a place I realistically won’t visit.) What was probably most surprising about the novel was that they were just normal everyday people like in all the other classics I’ve read – and that Russia isn’t all snow and ice! Russia has farming and society and all the things I never thought it had. I enjoyed Tolstoy’s various characterizations of Russian high society – some desperately wanting to be European, and some desperately wanting to stay independent/non-European, especially when they travel in Europe.
As for the story, I found it interesting and complex. There were potentially 15 main named characters and the book is over 1100 pages long! Did it need to be this long, probably not, but almost the entire novel was well worth it and beautifully written. However, I had very little sympathy/empathy for Anna Karenina (the character). I get why Anna Karenina is the title, everything throughout is loosely connected to her and her decisions, but I just couldn’t feel sorry for her. She mad her bed, so she should sleep in it. I did however love the Kitty/Levin plot line and it made me happy to no-end. I constantly found myself wondering what they were up to and how they were and they just brought a smile to my face.
If there is ONE thing I didn’t like about the novel, it is the ending. I would have been perfectly satisfied if the novel ended after Part 7 and Part 8 never existed. Part 8, to me, consisted of Tolstoy exploring and extolling his political and religious values. Now this wasn’t the first time they appeared in the novel, but this was the first time where I felt things got preachy and over-the-top. We also only check in with a few of the main characters (Vronsky, Kitty, Levin and family), but we don’t check back in with Anna’s husband and that really bothered me – I mean we find out the facts, but it’s sort of in passing when we’re learning about Vronsky. It also bothered me that Kitty, Levin et al. didn’t discuss Anna or what happened, they’d already moved on with their lives two months later. And this is completely fair considering what Anna and Vronsky did to them, but it felt odd to me.
Sorry for the rambling, but this was a long book and I tried to keep my thoughts in order as I read, but it took me 21 days to finish! I’m glad I read it, but doubt I will go back and re-read it.
Recommendation: Read it – there is something incredibly beautiful and moving about the story and the Russian countryside/culture. Don’t be daunted too much by the 1100+ pages, I would recommend splitting it into sections.
Opening Line: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Closing Line: “I shall go on in the same way, losing my temper with Ivan the coachman, falling into angry discussions, expressing my opinions tactlessly; there will be still the same wall between the holy of holies of my soul and other people, even my wife; I shall still go on scolding her for my own terror, and being remorseful for it; I shall still be as unable to understand with my reason why I pray, and I shall still go on praying; but my life now, my whole life apart from anything that can happen to me, every minute of it is no more meaningless, as it was before, but it has the positive meaning of goodness, which I have the power to put into it.” (Whited out – and it is a LONG sentence.)