Hamish's Reviews > Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
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's review
Dec 10, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: re-read-lit, lit

It broke my heart a little bit to give this four stars. The first time I read this (in book on tape form), I loved it and wouldn't shut up about it. This time around I knew a lot more about Tolstoy the person, I read Nabokov's lectures on it along with it, and I read a lot more carefully. N's lectures are great, by the way, and I highly recommend them, but while he loves Tolstoy, he's a little TOO good at pointing out his flaws and those kind of stuck with me while I read them. Also this time, knowing more about Count Leo, I couldn't help but pick up on the spitefulness of a lot of the text and how it seems like a catalog of the types of people he hates. Also it occurred to me what an asshole Levin is. And while the ideas that a writer is trying to get across should be much less important than the skill he uses to get them across, Levin's conversion at the end of the book is an enormous load of bullshit. Dostoevsky does a lot of the same thing, but as I've gotten older I've really learned to forgive Dos (whose ideas are less important in of themselves than what they do to the characters) what I can't forgive Tols (who I feel is just beating you over the head).

This is not to detract from the writing, which is fantastic. Tolstoy's commitment to his artistry (as N does a great job of illustrating) is incredible and precise. The characters live and breath, particularly through their body language which T lavishes an incredible amount of detail on. Anna's last day is still one of the most riveting and effective passages I've ever read. And as a whole, it's very absorbing and goes remarkably quickly. It's a classic and you should definitely read it, but it's a flawed classic.

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