JG (The Introverted Reader)'s Reviews > Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
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This is primarily the story of Anna Karenina's troubled affair with Alexey Vronsky. It's also the story of Konstantin Levin's search for love and truth in society.

While reading this book, I kept wishing that I could just read a "good parts version" as William Goldman called The Princess Bride. I kept getting bogged down in Tolstoy's reflections, mostly through Levin's eyes, of how decadent, silly, redundant, and complicated life in the upper class of 19th-century Russian society was. There would be pages and pages of a tangent that could have been an essay called "What's Wrong With Agriculture in Russia." I didn't care. There were also pages and pages of Levin watching an election and having no idea what was going on. If he didn't get it, there's no way that this 21st-century American woman is going to. Those parts just seemed to drag on and on and on.

But the story itself was beautifully written and really made me think. I'm all for women's rights, but I would catch myself thinking, "What a selfish, ungrateful woman!" And then I would think, "Well, if it weren't for women like Anna pushing the limits of acceptable behavior, you wouldn't enjoy the freedoms you do today." And then I'd go right back to thinking, "I can't stand her! She wants everything her way!" I'm not really exaggerating. I really had this internal dialog going on throughout almost every scene that featured Anna. I think part of the problem for me was that her husband was a good man, she just didn't love him. So I was torn between how Anna was hurting him and her quest for love.

I was worried about reading this, not necessarily because of the size, but because I wasn't sure how difficult it would be to understand. I really didn't have any problem with that. It was very readable-- except for when I was falling asleep during the tangents. The thing that really got me at first were all the names! I kept hearing that all the characters' names in Russian literature would get me confused, so I was sort of prepared, but I wasn't really expecting it to be as bad as it was. Almost every character, no matter how minor, was named. The major characters had several names and nicknames. It got so bad that I just had to laugh when I read that Levin had cows--cows!--named Pava, Berkoot, Hollandka, and a dog named Laska. The cows were never mentioned again. Ugh! But someone pointed me to Oprah's Book Club discussion of Anna Karenina. There was a character bookmark on there that I printed out and it helped tremendously. There were just a few spoilers on it though.

The ending was weak. Tolstoy built up and built up to this crashing climax, and then he spoiled it by rambling on for another twenty pages about Levin's search for faith. That really ruined the ending.

Overall, though, I don't regret reading this, but it was one of the very few books that left me wishing that I had found an abridged version.
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Reading Progress

01/26/2009 page 428
01/31/2009 page 897
100.0% 1 comment
04/20/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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Summer Great review! I couldn't agree more!

message 3: by Pat (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pat Thanks for the lead on the bookmark.It will be very helpful, even though I'm reading the book on my Nook.

JG (The Introverted Reader) You're welcome! I hope it helps!

Stina I wholeheartedly agree with this review. I really tried to stick it out during those tangents, but the last 100 pages or so I would just scan through when it got to those bits and try to get back to the meat of the story as soon as possible.

JG (The Introverted Reader) The tangents were awful, weren't they? It was like two books all smooshed up together.

Kate I think your review was dead on. I am only on part 3 and wish I could find the story without the tangents. Tolsky is no doubt thorough but is thorough to the point of boredom.

JG (The Introverted Reader) Thanks! I'm always a little afraid I missed something when I wish huge chucks were cut out of classics. O_o

Tweedledum I came to AK late in life and in a strange way found the musings and agonisings of Levin a relief from the story especially as I really did not warm much to Anna. The Keira Knightly film version really portrays Anna superbly I thought and gives a good insight into that world where everything seems to be a sham. Anna is so utterly lonely and alone as she wrestles with her desperate need for something real.

JG (The Introverted Reader) I hate to admit it, but I slept through most of that movie. :-/ It was gorgeously filmed but that's about all I remember.

Tweedledum LOL! My husband booked tickets for "The Mousetrap " when we moved to near London and I fell asleep in that. Later we took my mother in law to see it and I fell asleep again! Though I think it was in a different place! Now I just keep taking the tablets! ( thyroid pills )

I thought I was going to really dislike Keira Knightly as Anna having struggled with her reading of Elizabeth Bennett but I actually thought she kind of captured the character very well. Of course the gorgeous costumes and sets helped. If you get the chance do watch it again! She comes across to me as someone who there's not much going on behind the eyes .... I mean Anna is screamingly stupid isn't she at times. I guess all I know is that I would NEVER risk losing any child of mine for the sake of a man.

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