Shauna's Reviews > Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
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Mar 02, 08

Read in February, 2008

This was an amazing book. Shakespearean in its ability to create living, breathing characters who walk off the page. I never doubted for a moment that Levin, and Anna, and surprisingly, Oblonsky were people that I might bump into on the streets of Moscow back in 1850 or whenever the book was written.
But, really, the reason the characters seem so real is that they are not restricted to their time. Their concerns and feelings represent the human dilemma and it is easy for me to empathize with them - even though I am product of our mad, technological times. After all, huge changes are occurring in Tolstoy's Russia, fighting as it is with the adoption of a materialistic, perhaps nihilistic view of life. Perhaps this struggle is not so different from our own.
I understand many things about the book, the relationship that evolves between Levin and Kitty - wonderful, by the way - which is the experience I have had when the illusions of romance drop away and you begin to know the person as they really are and to realize that they have a whole world locked away in them that you can seldom touch. When you love, you carry a sense of that (as does Kitty - natural creature that she is) but often it cannot be expressed in words. Tolstoy has caught that well, I think.
I can understand Oblonksy and I think the characterization is so concise and brilliant. People like that (or are they personnae?) do exist - I've met them and I envy the easy way in which they sail, untroubled, through life.
But Anna... I remain puzzled and annoyed by her. I don't know if anyone can enlighten me. What exactly is missing for her? She finds her passion, her love and it is not enough, it cannot fulfil. Is it simply too isolating? She finds some intellectual fulfillment when time hangs heavy on her. Is it because she has a spiritual, our soul level (like Levin) that cannot ultimately be realized through erotic love? Is it because she cannot hold the fascination of a man who desires to be of the world as much as, or more than, he desires her? Is that why she resorts to opium? Is it really because of the societal strictures (misogyny even?) and the inability of her and Vronsky to forge a life together that is accepted by others? Would she have been happy, say, if she had met Vronsky instead of "the other Alexei", had married Vronsky in order to have his children? Is it because she has been disloyal to Sergei, her former and, other, great passion? Is that what causes her to propel herself to destruction?
I can't resolve it in my mind and have spent some hours looking about for answers since I finished the book. Perhaps there is no easy solution and perhaps it is an amalgam of the issues (and more?) that I have listed above.
Finally, I was glad that the novel ended with Levin's realization (I guess one can't call it a discovery since he is fully understanding what was already in his soul) that perfection is not possible. One can strive to be a good soul and it is the striving that becomes the purpose and satisfaction of life. We'll still have to display all our warts.
Is that what Anna failed to see?
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Anna (new) - added it

Anna Would you recommend it to someone?


Shauna Don't miss it!
One of my favourites along with Cloud Atlas.


message 3: by Margarida (last edited Dec 03, 2010 05:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Margarida Great review, Shauna. And I think the answer to your last question is: Yes.

I was kind of 'disappointed' with her. I mean, at the beginning of the book she seemed to me like an intelligent, mature, admirable woman but as the story progressed I realized she wasn't any of that. I even asked myself if what she felt for Vronski could be called of love. I don't think so, it seemed more like an obsession. She was way too selfish, in my opinion. Very, very selfish.

She wanted everything in her life to be perfect, which isn't possible. Since she couldn't have perfection, she killed herself. Wait, what? Anna, you childish woman! Poor Vronski...and poor Karenine.


message 4: by Anna (new) - added it

Anna Thanks! I was considering reading it and you have helped me a lot, again thanks.


Lana Great review - you sum up my thoughts about Anna. Perhaps it's a combination of all those things that ultimately lead to her downfall.


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