Jeannette's Reviews > Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
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's review
Mar 08, 16

really liked it
bookshelves: eclectic-readers
Read from January 20 to March 06, 2016 — I own a copy , read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** I literally don't have words for this book. The writing is fantastic. The themes are fascinating, although I unfortunately don't have enough political, historical, or social knowledge of Russia in this time period to fully appreciate some of Tolstoy's perspective, but I can appreciate the literary aspects. And I do! I love the way Tolstoy builds the parallels between his characters: Anna and Stiva, Anna and Levin, Levin and Vronsky, Vronsky and Karenin - each character compares and contrasts with others in such interesting ways. Not to mention their interactions with each other - while I didn't always understand the characters' motivations, especially Anna's, they truly interested me. It often felt as if I were watching a play, watching each character move around another, each set move on and off stage. While I understand the cultural significance of the book and the many descriptions of agricultural and political life, especially Levin's, I was primarily fascinated by the social questions and interactions. I would love to study this book, and will likely explore more information on it for some time to come.
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Reading Progress

01/20 page 23
2.0% "It's so exciting to finally be reading this!"
01/26 page 125
15.0% "Super interesting to me so far. I almost feel like I'm watching a play, seeing all the characters' eventual progress to a point in the far-off distance." 5 comments
02/20 page 407
48.0% "These Russians be crazy right now."
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Mark I agree, Jeanette, Tolstoy always presents Levin to the reader alongside another character to show contrast and character development : unrequited love followed by idealistic love for Kitty whom he places on a pedestal; beside the carefree and extravagant Stiva Levin is more conservative and restrained; beside Nikolai his brother who has fallen prey to alcohol and gambling, Levin is responsible and dutiful; beside Koznyshev, his half brother who enjoys intellectual argument but doesn't have the same passion for implementing agricultural reform and innovation as Levin; and similarly contrasting beside Sviyazhsky, a neighbouring landowner who unlike Levin and is openly cruel to his peasants.
Following the Tsar's Emancipation of the Serfs in 1861, rather like the abolition of slavery in America a few years later, the downtrodden and oppressed agrarian workers were suddenly thrown into a new world where there was no one to look out for their best interests and so many felt they were likely to be further exploited, so Levin was concerned for their vulnerability. So wounded in love Levin retreats to his estates where he idealises the peasants as a social class and hopes they will accept innovation but his presence only serves to symbolise the tension in the countryside between modernity and tradition. Many don't trust him, despite his idealism (or maybe because of it ?) or his class and clearly Tolstoy could see more economical contemporary farming methods were being resisted by the conservative peasantry who preferred doing things in the traditional time honoured 'Russian' way.
These sections in the middle of the book are a certainly a severe distraction from the main story line but I am nearly through them now ! Phew !

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