Christina's Reviews > Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
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In a Russia slowly changing, we meet 4 very different people. Ljóvin (Levin in the English version) who's in love with Kitty and Anna who is maried to Karenin. But Kitty is in love with Vronskij so she rejects Ljovin's proposal of marriage. Then Vronskij meets Anna and they fall in love and this love starts all what's happening in the book. Anna is still married and divorce is not something you easily get. So she's unfaithful to her husbond and end up leaving him for her lover, without getting a divorce, and leaving her young son behind - a series of actions that slowly drives her toward paranoia.
That this unfaithful wife is judged so hard by her society and her former friends are especially illuminating since the novel begins with Anna making sure that her brother Stiva's wife Dolly stays with him even though he has been unfaithful with the children's nanny... - and even though Stiva continues to be unfaithful, Dolly stays. But Anna chooses love and is harshly judged because of that.

To judge from this book, Tolstoy is a master of describing the feelings - often contradictory - we human feel and how we do things sometimes that we really don't want to, but that we do anyway to protect us from harm or to hurt someone who has hurt us. All his characters are so complex. They change and grow throughout the book but are also petty and spiteful and insanely jealous at times - in fact, I found Tolstoy a master in describing what we feel when we are jealous, a feeling both Anna and Ljóvin feels very strongly at several points in the book.

Some part of the book focuses on Ljóvin's attempt to change the way his farm is run and to try and get the workers to use the new tools and other parts focuses on political discussions and in these themes, you really see the difference between the men and the women. The men discuss these topics - the women don't. So it's a very gender focused society we are in - and that's of course why Anna is judged the way she is and not accepted into civilized society anymore. But these themes also show Anna as a special woman - at one part of the book she takes an interest in both the running of a farm and the building of a hospital and shows herself so capable that she is a serious player in the discussion of the best way to do both. So in some ways she's a very modern woman, but stuck in an old world.

In some ways, Anna and Ljóvin are presented as opposites. Anna goes after the unconventional love, gives up everything in order to achieve that love and is incredible happy - for a short time while Ljóvin finds love in the conventional way by marrying her dream girl but still he struggles with finding a meaning in his life and even though he loves his wife, he is often unhappy. Both characters struggle and both characters in the end reach a decision that sort of bring happiness to each of them, but in radical different ways.

For me, this is one of the books that really deserve to be a classic - and a book, that you can return to time and again and each time find something new. There are so many layers in the book and it is so well written and because of the characters complexity, you almost feel like reading it again as soon as you finish it... Amazing book!
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Reading Progress

01/18/2009 page 49
6.27% "Looking forward to reading this classic for the first time."
01/19/2009 page 123
15.75% "I'm a bit surprised over how good I find this book and how easy it is to read. From what I've heard, I had expected it to be more difficult."
01/19/2009 page 172
22.02% "So far definitely a 5 stars read!"
01/20/2009 page 183
23.43% "Very good book."
01/21/2009 page 253
32.39% "What can I say - really loving it."
01/22/2009 page 319
40.85% "Now the plot is really starting to play out."
01/24/2009 page 423
54.16% "My edition of AK is a two-volume book and I'm ready to begin vol. 2 now. I'm still very impressed with this book!"
01/24/2009 page 455
58.26% "Hopefully I get a lot of reading done tomorrow so I can finish this soon - eager to find out what happens!"
01/26/2009 page 565
72.34% "The difference between the life, Kitty and Anna lead at this point (after having been in love with the same man earlier) is staggering!"
01/27/2009 page 662
84.76% "I think I like reading about Ljóvin and Kitty more than reading about Vronskij and Anna - but it's all good! Getting close to the end now."

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