Read between: 5th-18th February
Originally published: 1878
Published: 16th October, 2012
Synopsis: Acclaimed by many as the world’s greatest novel, Anna Karenin provides a vast panorama of contemporary life in Russia and of humanity in general. In it Tolstoy uses his intense imaginative insight to create some of the most memorable characters in literature. Anna is a sophisticated woman who abandons her empty existence as the wife of Karenin and turns to Count Vronsky to fulfil her passionate nature – with tragic consequences. Levin is a reflection of Tolstoy himself, often expressing the author’s own views and convictions.
Throughout, Tolstoy points no moral, merely inviting us not to judge but to watch. As Rosemary Edmonds comments, ‘He leaves the shifting patterns of the kaleidoscope to bring home the meaning of the brooding words following the title, ‘Vengeance is mine, and I will repay.
Review: This book is rather hefty, but I was hooked into the story immediately thanks to Tolstoy’s writing style and the short chapters! Due to the book being split up into eight parts, it did take me a long time to read it it. I’m glad I did though! I only knew of the story through the 2012 film starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law- but there is so much more to the story!
It opens by telling us that Stiva (Stephen Arkadyevich) has been unfaithful to his wife, which sets apart an opinion of his character, as well as the theme of the entire novel; love, infidelity, and jealousy. We also meet all of the main characters (bar Karenin). Dolly, Stiva’s wife, her sister Kitty, Kitty’s suitor, Count Vronsky, Levin- who loves Kitty, and of course, Anna, who originally appears in the novel to try and fix her brother, Stiva’s, marriage.
However, Anna’s arrival just causes drama and it’s from there that the story really begins.
It leads to Kitty being heartbroken, ill, and she becomes quite childish. Thankfully, it doesn’t last long and I actually really liked her character development. Anna also isn’t the most subtle of women, especially with her closeness to Vronsky, as it is noticed by everyone how close they have become. Including her husband, Karenin.
One thing I liked from the book, especially in the second chapter, is the detail Tolstoy puts into certain scenes. I loved the detail of the horse race, from the sound of the hooves to the view of the spectators- the reader could really imagine being there. I also really liked the main focus on Levin and his life on his farm- including the part where he helps the peasants working on the farm to mow the fields with scythes.
His life is the main focus of Part Three, as well as the main theme of the book, jealousy, rearing it’s ugly head. Karenin cannot divorce Anna, due to his reputation, so Anna has to choose between her husband and her son, or her lover. She cannot have both- despite her love for her song being so strong.
I completely blame her for her dilemma- and the sad thing is, she doesn’t learn!
However, I really appreciated the fact that Karenin forgives Anna and Vronksy when he thinks she is dying, it shows him to be a much better person than the both of them, a fact, I think is proved by the fact that Vronsky tries to kill himself! Guilty?
Can Anna and Vronksy actually be happy without the shadow of guilt always following them around?
On the other hand, Kitty and Levin are very happy when they eventually get married- even though, surprise surprise, there is some jealousy between them (but there’s is always reconciled.) Whereas Anna doesn’t care about her son, as she can’t see him, and she now has another child to care for.
Although it is clear she doesn’t love her the same as she loves her son….she has a very changeable personality, making her very fickle!
I think the hardest thing about this book is that every now and then, the characters spoke in French or German, and I had to stop reading in order to translate it as I’m not fluent in either language. It made the reading experience more of a chore, and a little bit less enjoyable.
There’s always a mix of forgiveness and jealousy in each chapter/part e.g Kitty meets Vronsky years after he rejected her for Anna and she manages not to get upset that her broke her heart. However, after Levin meets Anna for the first time, Kitty gets angry thinking he loves her (!)
Their moods change a lot. It’s very confusing.
I’ve seen the film, so I know what happens to Anna at the end, and to be honest, it felt like a relief. She wasn’t the most agreeable of characters.
It was a good story, the mix of characters meant there was always something to read about and I was able to see the characters develop as the story progressed, especially Kitty and Levin’s relationship!
I can see why this book is a classic- even if the title character could be incredibly irritating! I can’t fault it though, and I’d definitely recommend it!
Well worth a read!
Thanks for reading!