Sep 08, 11
Read from August 29 to September 08, 2011
I figured it was about time that I read what is frequently referred to as the greatest novel ever written. Plus I hear they're making a new movie version of this starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law and since I hate seeing movies before reading the book, I jumped to it. The first thing I was surprised by was that while Anna is clearly a central character, she's one of seven main characters and the novel could just as easily been named for any of the others. Anna and her tragic love affair with Vronsky is contrasted with the happy marriage between Kitty and Levin. Levin was by far my favorite character in the book, and apparently the one that is most biographically like Tolstoy himself. I loved Levin for his social awkwardness, his frequent introspection, his intense love for Kitty, and his desire for higher meaning and a simple life. I didn't really care for Anna or Vronsky. I could see the appeal of Anna but I found her tiring and needy and rather careless of everyone's feelings except her own. I couldn't see the appeal of Vronsky at all. I didn't get the sense of the presence of deep or true love between the tragic pair that I did between Kitty and Levin.
I originally started reading the free kindle edition of this, which was a much older edition. About 150 pages in I switched to the edition translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. It's amazing how much a good translator can add to your enjoyment of a book. The newer translation was much smoother and flowed much better making it far easier to read.
In sum, I can't say that I found this the greatest novel I've ever read or one of the best love stories I've ever come across. In fact, far greater than love was the theme of death and each character is proccupied with death in his own way. However, this is a classic that demands to be read so long as you have the heart to slog through over 800 pages. Tolstoy gets in to each of his character's heads and is near stream of consciousness at points. His insight into the psychology of his characters and his study of society's condemnation of the wrong choices proves an unforgettable tale.