Karel's Reviews > Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
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Aug 22, 2012

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Read from September 06 to 16, 2012

I got obsess by this book and couldnt stop reading it. In short, the book is awesome and a must read, beautifully written and with deep characters, society and stories. Even though I profoundly disliked the character of Anna Karenina, I loved most of other plots and characters.

This review is a set of my impressions throughout the entire book and will contain plot and spoilers, so you have been warned.
In the first part of the book I really liked all the characters, even Wronsky who is selfish but not so different from other 20`s boys who get distracted by ilusions of conquests and affairs.
I found enduring that Kitty rejected Levine because she was in love with someone else. Even if she was wrong, at least she rejected him for the right reasons and not for the rank or money.
After the affair began I felt seriously bad for the husband Karenin, poor guy, he`s so heart broken that he cant even accept his situation. I dont encourage it, but I cant understand the unhappy wife cheating on his husband, especially since in the time of the book the marriages were arranged; but what I see horrible is Anna viewing his husband with total despise, I dont think he deserves any of her reproaches although it must be difficult to be married with someone so cold and who has always an ironic tone in his voice, especially someone as passionate as Anna.
About the horse race, beside the metaphor with his relationship, I found a quote at the end of the chapter which raptured me: "It was the first time in his life that he (Wronsky) was victim of an irremediable disgrace, and he couldnt blame anyone but himself". I think that sentence summarize the whole present and future of their cheating "love".
The farming part was long but it wasnt that boring for me. I can relate to the idea that bad thoughts wont enter easily in a hard working body.
A lot of authors print his philosophies of life in his works (Wilde did it a lot) but I found all the philosophical discussions boring, I have no love for philosophy in general.
About Alejo Karenin not submiting the divorce didnt won my sympathy, because his deepest motivation is not to spare Ana of the disgrace of a fallen woman, but to make her and her lover miserables. To prevent their hapinness. What he does not foresee is that they would not be happy together, Anna and Wronsky are each other`s ruin.
Later, when Ana insults without any mercy to his husband was horrible to read. She hates him and loathes him but just dont have the courage to judge herself in a mirror. And she dares to insult him when she is living in HIS house and eating HIS food and still frequenting her lover in high society events. Mr Karenin was so right to tell her: "Cowardice is to leave a husband and son for a lover and still eat the husband´s bread".
The only thing Karenin ask from her was that Wronsky dont enter HIS house, he doesnt even ask her to stop seeing him at all, just in his house; and still she doesnt care.
And after the ignominy and all the humiliations Karenin forgives them both, I never saw that one coming. I wondered if she would remember Karenin´s virtues after recovering, or if she would continue to be an ingrate harpy. Of course, she leaves with Wronsky, with stupid Wronsky who couldnt even shot himself right.
Now I´m glad for Mr. Karenin, he no longer desire the misery of those two (they would bring that to themselves by their own), he has forgiven and has no ill feeling against them, no darkness stain his soul. Of the three, he is the one who would be more able to find peace.
By the middle of the book, almost all the characters had changed a lot. Levin stopped whining, proposed to Kitty and is happy, Kitty is so mature and lovable while at the begining was just a voluble teenager. Anna is dramatic and histerical.
The ones who remain the same are Oblansky and Dolly. Oblansky is sort of shallow, and I dont say it as a judgement, he is one of the characters that I liked the most. He is not a man of convictions or courage, although this does not make him a bad person per se. He likes the stability in his life with his family and job, but also wants to have fun, be entertained, enjoy life drinking, eating and with women. Instead of having ideals and then live by them (like Levine or Alejo Karenin), he adopts ideals that adapt his life style. Well, that makes him pragmatic but not a role model.
I disliked Anna much more than Wronsky, and it is not about the affair, that I can understand, it`s her incapacity to face the consequences of her actions. Anna has a chronic hole in her soul that keeps digging deeper and deeper with her choices. When she was with her husband, she blamed him of her unhappiness, when she is in Italia with Wronsky, she blames the absence of her son for her inhappiness, and now that they are in Russia, she blames Wronsky for her unhappiness. But she never see herself truly in a mirror, she doesnt see that HER choices are the ones that made her miserable, that in a way, she has chosen her own misery. I think she just want someone to blame for, when all her dissatisfaction is on her.
And Wronsky since the begining of the book was a man easily distracted. He had fun with Kitty, then met Ana and move to her, the new shiny thing. He is now with Ana, and of course is not enough, he needs distractions and new shiny things, like painting and aristocrat society. He was eager to assure her that if they would live in hell, he wouldnt care if he was with her. But it is different to imagine hell than to live in it. They deserve each other. And they reproduced, of course, poor baby girl, cause at least Seryozha has a father that is not that affectionate, but is devoted to him. Instead, that baby has a poor excuse of parents.
The political statements bored me horribly, the only hope that took me through it was that all that aristocratical/political nonsense was over 50 years later (due to Revolution).
I really enjoyed all the story of Levine and Kitty in their house. It was so lovable: Kitty`s pregnancy, and of course the mother in law making all sorts of intruding comments. I loved all the little details of rural/family life cause I can relate so easily to that. Family living is a lot of laugh but also a lot of litle disagrements and agreements.
But back with Anna and her craziness, I hated her so much that didnt pity her when she is crying with Dolly about her misfortunes. It reminded me in Pride and Prejudice when Lizzi reproach Darcy about what he had done to Wickam and he answers sarcastically "Oh yes, His misfortunes had been really great indeed". I heard the same in my head: Oh yes, Ana`s misfortunes had been really great indeed. She had earned them all the way.
Anna tried to seduce Levine, and this time Kitty was the elegant, beautiful and reasonable one; while Ana was neurotic, vindictive and horrible.
Wronsky and Ana keeps fighting a lot, about the most stupid things, and she cant help herself, because she is miserable and misery dont like solitude, so she must spread it somewhere and the only one close is Wronsky, cause all society for her is out of the question. Even when he is a passioned man, I think he will get tired of this fighting more sooner than later, and I cant blame him. Ana´s biggest fear is that Wronsky would leave her, but paradoxically enough, she is doing everything to send him away, with her insane jealousy and possessiveness.
The title of this book could be "Ana Karenina and her path to insanity", her mental situation has become totally deranged by the last part of the book. She is delutional, picturing in her head horrible dialogues with Wronsky that never happened. That part when she thinks that the only way to regain Wronsky´s love is killing herself... totally crazy. She would make him a favour, ridding him of her jealousy and reproaches. I became more simpathetic with Wronsky for enduring Ana´s craziness, more because he didnt have to, legally they werent married. I would had leave her a looooong time ago, but I guess he liked (in a way) Ana´s drama. And I couldnt blame him for his annoyance to her at the end. I was glad when she herself to the train. Finally I would stop reading her incessant victimizing delutions. I was so tired of her.
I was consternated that Tolstoi didnt gave a resume of what happens to other important characters of the book. Specially Alejo Karenin, the only thing that is said is that he obtained his freedom and became the tutor of the baby girl (thank god, that poor child would finally have a rational parent that cares).
I was happy that Levin finally find a sort of faith or belief in his life.
Well, this book was a roller coaster of emotions, and even when I was a little bored with all the phylosophical stuff, I enjoyed it a lot, the characters, the story and the style were awesome.
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