Booksellers NZ Anna Karenina winter read discussion

Now that you've started, how is AK going?

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message 1: by Emma (new)

Emma McCleary (emmamakes) | 5 comments Mod
I'm on page 38 of Anna Karenina and going strong. I'm surprised how much I'm enjoying it - it's funny and the multi-Russian names for everyone aren't too bad. How about you?

message 2: by Susan (new)

Susan Pearce (susannahmp) | 4 comments I must confess to not having started it yet. I'm still finishing another bookclub read, Nabokov's Pnin. But I have AK all lined up to go.

message 3: by Penny (new)

Penny | 10 comments I'm on page 13. I've unfortunately been on page 13 since the 21st due to a hefty workload. BUT I'm going to plough into it this weekend :)

message 4: by Susan (new)

Susan Pearce (susannahmp) | 4 comments I've just started Part 2. I'm finding the omniscient tone very restful: Tolstoy moves his characters around in entertaining ways without insisting on my direct connection with them. (I'm thinking here of Cunningham's 'By Nightfall': I found those characters much less interesting than Tolstoy's, but Cunningham's close third person narrative demanded that I get up close with them.) Then, when Tolstoy does delve into Anna's feelings (I'm being purposely banal so as to not to write spoilers), it's all the more effective.

I'm also finding all the science references really interesting, and trying not to be annoyed by the lack of context around the idea of the 'adulterous woman': it's asking a bit much of Tolstoy, I guess, to acknowledge the injustice of his time's statutory and moral structures.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm enjoying the dry wit! It is funnier than I expected it would be. I also like the emotional complexity of the characters. Tolstoy really probes the inner life!

message 6: by Susan (new)

Susan Pearce (susannahmp) | 4 comments Same here, Helen. It's constantly surprising. It's not so easy to tell what Tolstoy thinks of his characters. I'm loving it.

message 7: by Emma (new)

Emma McCleary (emmamakes) | 5 comments Mod
I'm on page 147 now and loving it! Not everyone is though ... I keep getting Karenina confessional emails to my work address from strugglers. Our Finance Manager (almost finished the book) says it's tedious!

message 8: by Helen (new)

Helen Heath (helenheath) | 3 comments I'm into part 2. It's easier to read and funnier than I thought too. I keep thinking about The Unbearable Lightness of Being as I go along.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

I think parts of it are tedious and haven't aged well...the long commentary about Russian politics and class, here and there...but the richness of the characters is what keeps me going.

message 10: by Penny (new)

Penny | 10 comments I've just finished part one (last night) and found the last half of the part more interesting and exciting than the first half of the part. The bits and pieces so far regarding politics and science seem like a great historical record for us. A writer of the period reacting to what was going on and translating it through fiction. And Emma, I made it over page 100 without realising it so it's a good sign!

message 11: by Emma (new)

Emma McCleary (emmamakes) | 5 comments Mod
This morning on the train I read Vronsky's steeplechase scene. Fabulous! My favourite part of the book so far. I also dipped into a bit of internet commentary about the scene, which made a lot of sense - I'll look forward to reading more of it once I'm finished with the novel.

message 12: by Helen (new)

Helen Heath (helenheath) | 3 comments Anna is totally the Mare, don't you think?

message 13: by Emma (new)

Emma McCleary (emmamakes) | 5 comments Mod
That's what the analysis was about - that the horse race was a metaphor for Anna and Vronsky's relationship. REALLY interesting stuff.

message 14: by Penny (new)

Penny | 10 comments I think I am relating a lot to Vronsky's character a bit (unfortunately), which is helping me to appreciate the book. I just read that Steeplechase scene a few nights ago and on the surface of the story I didn't want Tolstoy to kill the horse (aahhh I hated that animal cruelty part where he kicked(?) her). But I know how it feels to keep on 'flogging a dead horse' relationshiply speaking. Words to the wise: Affairs with married people nearly always end in your own misery, because you just can't understand why the person you're so in love with won't leave their spouse. You tell yourself, 'I'll wait just that little bit longer, just that little bit' but it all ends in despair (yours)...
So in some ways I'm understanding Vronsky and the words Anna utters and the things she thinks I've heard from someone else's mouth before. Perhaps I'm reading this book not just as a project but as a kind of therapy. The 'it's not you, it's true of all affairs' therapy!

message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

I am halfway through! Woot! A couple of weeks ago that seemed impossible.

My favourite character so far is Levin. Helen Heath said he is like Mr Darcy. He sort of is, but not quite as grumpy and smouldering. I love how earnest he is and how he tries to hang out with the peasants. I found the long grass-cutting scene kind of saucy, which I know is weird, but I like men who garden! :)

I won't spoil for the rest of you but something just happened that has sealed Vronsky and Anna's fates!

Isn't Anna's husband a horrible cold fish? And Kitty irritates me with how emotionally immature she is.

Love, the Levin Fan Club.

message 16: by Penny (new)

Penny | 10 comments Love it Helen Love it!!! I was having an email conversation with Emma a week or two ago regarding Kitty's relationship with Varenka - it came across quite lesbian. I don't think the author intended it that way but I found it a very interesting angle!!!

As for Levin, yes, must agree, a bit Mr Darcy like. I can't wait for Kitty to wake up and be impressive for him.
I'm now (at page 360ish?) beginning to un-like Veronsky. I want to shake him. Hard. What a dick. Now I'm swaying toward understanding Anna and her jealousy - been there!

Penny :)

message 17: by Penny (new)

Penny | 10 comments OMG...last night I couldn't put the book down and I am literally yawning today - I had gotten to the part where Levin and Kitty were conversing with letters and I could feel the romance just jumping off the page and felt very infected by it! Isn't his flash name 'Konstantin' beautiful?!
P :)

message 18: by Penny (new)

Penny | 10 comments A few of us have finished - how are the rest of you going? It's worth it to keep going because at the end you can say "I read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and I survived". Once you're done 'War and Peace' doesn't look like such a long hard book to tackle after all...
Penny :)

message 19: by Susan (new)

Susan Pearce (susannahmp) | 4 comments Hi Penny, I finished and really loved it, even (almost) the political parts. I keep meaning to go back and revisit all my favourite scenes (marked them along the way) but have been completely consumed ever since by VERY slowly reading Brian Greene's excellent 'The Fabric of the Cosmos'. So haven't posted much here as I don't have anything intelligent to say about it...I agree with your comment about Kitty's relationship with Varenka. And was this just my confusion, or did Tolstoy use the name 'Varenka' for another character, too?

A friend in the UK told me that a fascinating film was made about Tolstoy (with James McAvoy in the leading part?!) dealing with how his contemporary fans made him into something of an idol, and how he practically started his own religion after leaving his wife. (I haven't read any Tolstoy bio so don't know how accurate that is.) Has anyone seen it?

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Is that film The Last Station? I haven't seen it but have heard it is good.

I'm finished now too! What an achievement it feels like!

I really enjoyed it - however, what on earth was that final part about? After *the significant event* near the end - why was there that last bit with Levin suffering a theological crisis?? That really ruined the ending for me.

message 21: by Penny (new)

Penny | 10 comments I think this was typical 'wind down' sort of technique of the time Helen. Compared to our 'hit it and get out' technique today. Perhaps he was worried about upsetting anyone. I was waiting for the 'aha!' moment with Levin that was a little bit of a fizzer near the end unfortunately...My favourite part was definitely in the middle. When I was there I couldn't put the book down...
Hmmm...what will we read next? Summer is the best time for me - no school, and two weeks off work as well!

message 22: by Helen (new)

Helen Heath (helenheath) | 3 comments I've FINISHED!!! Wow, we have different expectations of novels these days, don't we? Parts of AK I found irritating then other parts, especially the relationships and interior monologues, were so modern and astute. He is so good at little details, like the squeeze of a hand.
At first I was angry at the way AK was portrayed. Don't you get sick of the 'bad woman' characters? But I think Tostoy really did try and show things from different perspectives and show that it was society judging, not him. Although he was really into 'natural' vs 'un-natural' ie breastfeeding mothers are good, bottle feeders bad, City folks corrupt, country folks simple good people etc...
There's lots to think about. The ending sure isn't how we would end a novel these days. Today it may have ended with Vronsky going off to war and left off all Levin's faith angst at the end. However I can see why he did it this way. The novel isn't really about AK it's more about Tolstoy/Levin's life philosophy. He wouldn't have wanted to place too much emphasis on the way things end for Anna and Vronsky, yeah?
Also Levin's slow faith reveal and lack of 'aha' was actually quite realistic I thought. In fact don't you think the whole book was a good attempt at 'real' as opposed to an obviously artificially constructed reality? Although doing that risks losing a snappy read.
It must have been quite groundbreaking in it's time, it felt very modern in some ways.
Anyway, I'm relieved to have finished and glad I persevered.

message 23: by Penny (last edited Sep 10, 2011 06:12PM) (new)

Penny | 10 comments I've been pondering AK again, even though I've moved on to other books. Dolores Cannon really is worth reading if you're interested in the realistic happenings of 2012 and beyond. I see she has a new one out as of 1st September: "The Three Waves of Volunteers and the New Earth" ISBN 9781886940154. Also if you get a chance to see her talk about all of this stuff live, do!
ANYHOO I DIGRESS...I was thinking about AK and her 'bad woman' portrayal. I've realised in myself that I like bad women as characters, but I prefer that they get away with it rather than get moralistically punished or done away with. It's just so much more interesting if the powerful unconventional woman manages to outsmart all the men and dopey do-gooder women with the flutter of her devilish eyelashes...

Penny :)

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