Lostinanovel's Reviews > Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
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Mar 30, 09

Read in March, 2009

** spoiler alert ** First off, don’t be put off by the book’s length. Tolstoy is a beautiful and easy-to-access writer and the chapters of AK are 2-4 pages each making it easy to digest. More importantly, Anna is a great work of art that is worth the effort. Tolstoy’s language is beautiful and you will recognize many lines, right from the opening sentence: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." This beauty alone justifies a reading.

If you have any interest at all in Russian history, Tolstoy paints a wonderful portrait of high society and the upper class’s views and early struggles with the concepts of socialism, patriotism etc. Written in 1870, Tolstoy betrays the early seeds of the socialist/communist philosophies concerning government, economics and labor relations that will eventually come to rule the land. If you don’t have an interest in Russian history, you will after reading Anna.

I was surprised at the “soap opera” aspect to the story. Infidelities, jealousies, underhandedness and violence, Anna would make a great mini-tv series. However, many “big ideas” are still addressed. One is family life. A family-focused life is idealized and those who betray it suffer greatly for it. However, Tolstoy also makes one acutely aware that family life restricts an individual, that it does require self-sacrifice. The plight of women is touched upon but I am not sure what Tolstoy was trying to say. Anna pays dearly for her infidelity whereas the men do not. Was Tolstoy trying to point out that obvious inequality or did he view the scorn of society towards unfaithful women as simple justice? Christianity is a major theme and Levin, a main character, has a conversion after a long struggle with the ideas. Levin is rewarded well for living for the general good and/or for others, not himself. I also found Anna’s husband’s brutal treatment of her to be justified by religion but nonetheless horrible. Was Tolstoy pointing our fault with the Church?

If I were to make a criticism, it would be that I found some of the characters a bit too simplistic. Levin is almost too good of a man to be believable. Anna’s husband is dull without any spark. Levin’s brother is a pompous intellectual. No one breaks or questions their role. Anna herself is more complex but still doesn’t surprise one too much.
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Steve I liked this review. Many of my own observations about the novel...expressed better than I would have.


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