Classics Without All the Class discussion

Anna Karenina
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May 2013- Anna Karenina > Review *Most Definitely Contains Spoilers*

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Karena (karenafagan) Bookshelf: Book you loved and would buy and keep
Library Bag: Book you would liked, but would just borrow
Donation Box: you hated it, get rid of it now.

This thread will have spoilers since it is your overall opinion of the book so beware!

Alana (alanasbooks) | 208 comments Library bag, except that I rarely get rid of classics, since somehow it feels like they are supposed to be part of that "showing off" collection on the shelves at home.

I read this several months ago, but I'll just copy and paste my review here:

Anna Karenina is a study of religion, culture, aristocracy and morality, among other things. The central storyline is that of a woman and her adultery, but the novel encompasses much more than that. It's not so much a study in the morality of fidelity but rather of once a wrong has been done, what is to be done about it? How is society to react? What are the consequences to family, children, friends? What role should faith and religion play when defining love and loyalty? All of these questions play out over the course of the novel.

It is certainly lengthy and seems slow in parts so is not for the light reader, but the story is very worthwhile, if you're up to all those pages.

Jessica | 464 comments Alana wrote: "Library bag, except that I rarely get rid of classics, since somehow it feels like they are supposed to be part of that "showing off" collection on the shelves at home.

I read this several months ..."

I am almost finished with part 3. The part where we get Alexey and Anna's pov, of her admittance, centers around all of what you mentioned. Alexey is concerned with society's reaction and somewhat worried about the family. He uses religion, in the end but I feel like it is b/c he thinks it is most likely to make Anna feel guilty. Or he hopes it will.

Whereas Anna is fully concerned with the child's well-being and how her actions could effect him. I can't wait to see where else the story goes. I am loving the story. Glad I was given the opportunity to read one of Tolstoy's works. I will be back later to post a "real review". :D

Nadja (nzie) | 16 comments Probably library bag. I read this for a Russian literature class (translated) in college, and so I always think of how we discussed it there.

Tolstoy writes in a compelling way, but the ideas he espouses are so bad even he can't maintain it in the last hundred pages (which, in my opinion, is where it gets really good). His first sentence sets it out: there is only one path to happiness/goodness/fulfillment/etc., and those who are unhappy have become that way by failing to conform to what he thinks is right. I think Tolstoy really wanted this to be true, because he was I think very depressive, and it creates a false assurance that simply doing certain things will lead to happiness (of course, this doesn't work). But by the end, even though they are foils of each other, both couples are in much the same place - separated from each other, and on the verge of suicide. For me this is where his writing was most vivid, from Anna's spiral to the end. The cracks in his ideas are the most honest.... if only it didn't take 800 pages to get to them.

Anna and the trains - so interesting. They both bring in un-Russian-ness - Anna's poor morals, and the trains a technological society (and by Tolstoy's time Russia was already decades behind everyone else, and under his cultural influence, it stayed that way - really hurting poorer people and setting Russia up for failure economically, in war, etc.). I did enjoy how he poked at the upper-class hypocrisy (it's okay to take a lover, but not to actually love him/her). Anna at least is more honest.

I wish there were more options for women than boring Kitty and interesting but tragic Anna. I get the feeling Tolstoy wanted Karenin to be the true victim and object of sympathy, but it was hard not to care for Anna, torn as she is, even though in many ways she's the architect of her own misery. My professor argued that Kitty was essentially an angel of death (despite being extremely childlike through most of the book, she all of a sudden is an expert when it comes to helping a man get through dying). I'm not sure how much I follow this, but I think only Tolstoy could find her a worthy foil of Anna, and only due to the ideology he was pushing.

Anyway, clearly as a result of that class I can't escape over-intellectualizing this book. I'd say it's worth a read, but probably not a re-read.


Martin Waterhouse Definitely (audio) bookshelf ... I went into this book totally blind, with no idea who Anna Karenina would be, though, having unsuccessfully attempted War and Peace many years ago, I had vague expectations of epic panoramas with vast casts caught up in earth-shattering revolutions. So, it was with more than a little trepidation that I took a deep breath before plunging in … and was utterly surprised to find myself drawn into an incredibly intimate tale of a handful of individuals as they battled their way through the everyday slings and arrows that life threw at them.
This isn’t a situation-drama: the events that move the plot along are nothing extraordinary, they are the births, deaths, marriages, divorces and common yet complex affairs of the heart, home and office that we all have to deal with at some time in our lives. But this is definitely no 19th century Russian soap-opera. Tolstoy takes us deep into the minds of the characters - we get to hear their innermost insecurities, fears, vanities and hopes as they move about their social sets - and, through their conversations and internal monologues, he paints us an incredibly vivid picture of a Russia that is changing. The indebted and useless Aristocrats are being left behind as the Bureaucrats and Industrialists drag the country into the future, and no-one knows how it will end, and everyone has to find their place. The way he weaves the personal strands together to form this larger tapestry is what makes this novel so impressive to me: the fine mix of the intimate and the political is beautifully balanced.
But whatever the themes of the book, it’s the people that bring this to life. Anna is an intelligent and popular woman whose honesty and wit charms everyone she meets, and Levin is a complex and somewhat sheltered landowner who is trying to bring order to his life. We follow these two as their lives are rocked by their desires, and how their decisions and actions affect those they love.
So this was a wonderful surprise of a novel to me. Instead of the clash of empires and the rage of battles I was expecting, there was the rise and fall of two souls as they simply tried to do what was right.

Jessica | 464 comments When I began this book, I had no idea what to expect. I knew adultery was involved and that Anna dies in the end. I prepared myself for an epic tragedy and a lengthy read. I found something more inside of it though. For me, it was a story about how women see themselves. Every woman, at some point, has the negative picture of herself pop into her head. It is hard image to recreate positively, once the negativity has seeded itself. This image is even more difficult to move past when one is faced with societal views. While this was written in the 19th century Russian society, it is something every woman continues to deal with throughout our history. From the single girl who thinks she will never marry because she ruined her chance, to the mother who stays with the adulterous husband because it is better for the children, to the unhappy unloved woman who finds happiness and love in the words/actions of other men giving her the attention she craves at home. The inner monologues Tolstoy writes invokes sympathy from the reader (I believe I had this emotion for every character except Stiva).

While the ending of Anna's life is extremely tragic. It didn't really phase me like I thought it would. I feel so insensitive saying that, but it's true...What can you do? I didn't feel terribly sorry for her in the end. Maybe it was all the foreshadowing or maybe it was just that her paranoia became overwhelming even for me, the reader. However, Levin's ending made me smile. He finds love in his son and happiness/understanding of where is faith lies.

I am glad I read such a monster of a book. It has given me the confidence to read more of them. Atlas Shrugged and Les Miserables do not look so intimidating now. Granted, it will be a while before I pick another one up, but I will do it.

Michelle Burton (goneabroad71) | 43 comments Bookshelf for me! This was the third time I've read Anna, and I liked it even more this time around. I think it captures relationship dynamics so well.

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