Anna Karenina

by graf Leo Tolstoy

Hardcover

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Description

Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel's seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness. While previous versions have softened the robust, and sometimes shocking, quality of Tolstoy's writing, Pevear and Volokhonsky have produced a translation true to his powerful voice. This award-winning team's authoritative edition also includes an illuminating introduction and explanatory notes. Beautiful, vigorous, and eminently readable, this Anna Karenina will be the definitive text for generations to come.… (more)

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Media reviews

De nieuwe vertaling van Anna Karenina leest als een trein, dankzij allerlei knappe vondsten van vertaler Hans Boland.

User reviews

LibraryThing member ChocolateMuse
This is a book of enormous scope - almost too big for me. Tolstoy takes the famous first sentence about unhappy families for his theme and explores it in detail. We meet a number of familes and relationships both happy and unhappy, none of them wholly one or the other, and we watch the way they progress.

I found I didn't connect very well with Anna herself. I'm not sure if this is why, but she did seem to me such a self-absorbed character that I couldn't find any redeeming warmth in her. Even her love for others (I include her son in this) is a selfish love, right from the start. Her suffering draws her even more inward, more inside herself, and this is, perhaps, the reason why she becomes such a tragic figure by the end of the book.

I could identify much better with Levin, and I find it interesting that his great enlightenment at the end of the book is in essence the very opposite of Anna's characteristics and subsequent downfall. But there were other things I liked about Levin's character. I like how he tries so hard to experience things that he concentrates too hard on the trying, and misses the experience. And connected to that is the way he can almost never just feel anything - always he has to think about it, until what could have been simple becomes altogether too much for him to deal with. Perhaps my enjoyment of books is too much focused on how well I personally identify with the characters; anyway, I did identify with Levin. I believe Tolstoy based Levin on himself, which may be why Levin's character is so relatable and rounded.

Anna's story and Levin's story play against each other throughout this book, beginning quite close together, and widening more and more apart as time goes on. One gets the sense that it is the characters themselves who drive their own stories; that someone else in their place would end up in a totally different position. There's a feeling there, faintly moral, of how characters shape their own destiny with the principles they live by.

If I was to read this book again (I probably won't) I would look for a different, older translation. I read the one by Pevear and Volokhonsky, which is excellently done, but the language felt a little too plain for me, not quite fitting the story. Something with a more nineteenth century flavour would feel more appropriate to me.

The attraction of this book is made up of little moments. The wider, overarching plot usually feels lost in a mass of small happenings, and for most of the book it feels rather like life does - just one thing happening after another, the greater destiny unclear, and too big to be of immediate concern. Looking back, I like this; but while I was reading it felt a little disorienting, and unclear.

It took me months to read the whole thing, but it was worth the effort. I'm perhaps the only member of LT who hasn't read this already, but if you haven't, I (in my wisdom) recommend it.
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LibraryThing member Banoo
Tolstoy's book 'Levin'... I mean 'Anna Karenina' though large, seems small... though simple, is also complex. Over 800 pages for I love her, I despise her... he loves me, he despises me, I have a son, a daughter, he loves others? train tracks are great decision makers... why am I here?

My relationship with Anna started with infatuation, turned into indifference, then an extreme dislike bordering on hatred, and ended with pity... then I went and had a sandwich.

Levin on the other hand made me wonder if maybe in another life (if I believed in such things) I was a Russian farmer. Today I'm a Landscape Architect (not related to farming as much as I wished) with much the same questions and problems that troubled Levin throughout the book.

As with War and Peace, when I finished Part 7 and continued with Part 8, the last section of the book, I started to wonder if Tolstoy had problems with identifying that point where he should end a story. But as I read and reread parts of Part 8 I began to realize that it was my favorite part of the book... part, part, part... section!

Levin finds the answer to the question that had been bothering him... Why? And the answer he realized was with him all the time. He was just too busy looking around it.

I think I preferred 'War and Peace' to 'Levin'... I mean 'Anna Karenina'. But both books prove that Tolstoy was a master of transforming blank pages into many different lives... good stuff. good sandwich too.
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LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
There were great swathes of this book where I thought it would be better titled Levin--while Anna may be the novel's great tragedy, I can't help but feel that she's better seen as a counterpoint to Levin's great struggles and triumph through grace. This is a novel in the classic sense, a mighty simulation, a social experiment: wind them up, feed in your preoccupations, and let them go, let the magisterial insight and craft of the author-as-Prospero (Tolstoy hated Shakespeare, by the way) learn us a few things about what fools we be. (How lucky we are to have had a Tolstoy to make experiments on this scale possible--certainly he looks a bit like God himself, doesn't he?--without, like, the necessity to liquidate the kulaks.)

And because that's the project, and Tolstoy's arc bends toward justice (although justice of a particularly grim and sad and emotionally hard-won kind), I can't help but see Anna as a dark shadow rather than a tragic protagonist. She is chewed up by social mores--ultimately, of course, by patriarchy, hence the killing irony that she never escapes Karenin's name and, at the end, he also takes possession of her and Vronsky's daughter. She spends the whole book getting weaker, trying to understand how the system is undermining her for stepping out of line when neither her nor anybody else can really perceive it happening. All her strength--real as it is, much as it helps her be magnificent and help people in the early part of the novel--is founded on lies: the pretense that she loves her husband, and then the desperate hope that the power of love is greater than the total squalid capitulation to awful feelings that the name of love always seems to imply.

It's weird for a novel this carefully planned and balanced to seem messier than War and Peace but that's just probably a function of that reality that suffuses it. These people are messy, and they change, in real and unexpected and wasteful ways, and they and the reader can still find meaning in those changes (and they'd better, if they want to make it from one end of life to another). Vronsky was good for me. I think I habitually see myself as a Stiva, and Vronsky made me realize it's not that simple, and understand that some people might see some of my mistakes and foibles differently if they see them as coming out of not a fundamental bonhomie but a fundamental arrogance. Dolly was good for me--a reminder that the bestowal of epic narrative arcs on some of us but not others is the most fundamental class divide. It was good to see Tolstoy write about real people--he's magnificent at it, and since the characters in Anna Oblonsky and Friends don't have the weight of a whole ponderous philosophy of history on their heads, they teach us more relevant lessons more unceremoniously: Don't cheat. Be kind. Trust yourself. Build something. Take leisure. Believe.
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LibraryThing member rainpebble
Tolstoy is a wonderful author and the translation I have by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky; I could not have been happier with. It is a lovely translation.
The story begins with duplicity and ends with a man finding himself, the reason for his life and his life's work.
The tragedy of Anna Karinina was, for me, almost a backdrop for the rest of the book. I liked how the author built her character and toward the end showed how a person, through their search for the ultimate happiness of self, can literally become so filled anxiety, angst, and depression that they lose their grip on reality and destroy themselves.
The writing is such that I came to know the characters in this novel and I thought that they and their behavior was understandable and within their characterizations. I must admit that the politics of it totally confused me but did not disturb the storyline. I liked how the author went back and forth with the different character's stories and I found it easy to follow.
Although the title of the book is Anna Karinina, for myself the main character of the book and the one I cared the most about was Levin. To me, it was his story with all of these subplots written behind it. He is the one I related to, cared the most about, and wanted to know about. He is the one I found to be the most mulitfaceted character and there were many layers to him. I also enjoyed Kitty's character. Anna, on the other hand was very shallow and altogether a rather boring, though beautiful character. Her demise was almost anticlimactic, but with it Vronsky finally became a man.
I loved the last part of the book where Levin really challenged himself and thought the ending quite beautiful.
This was my second reading of the book within 35 years and I am sure I won't wait so long for the next reading. It read very differently this time around. I highly recommend this classic. I found it to be a beautifully and calmly written novel. Tolstoy was indeed masterful with the pen
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LibraryThing member brenzi
Continuing on a quest to read all some of the classics I missed out on in my younger years, I recently finished the book that has been called, by people more learned than myself, the greatest novel ever written. I can’t say they’re wrong. I had the advantage of reading the newest translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky and the smoothness of the narrative, I believe, added to the great enjoyment obtained from the reading.

As well known as this book is, I wasn’t really aware of the story line but I won’t bore you by going into too much detail other than saying it was part love story, part family story, part adulterous affair and an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. Multiple storylines told by a core group of characters, pretty much all related in one way or another. This all worked well to form what I found to be a riveting narrative. And it all worked to make the book’s opening sentence, ”All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” serve as the opening salvo for everything that happens in the story. In addition, Tolstoy offers up through the narrative, the idea that we are all the victims of our choices.

Eight hundred pages is a lot of book for an author to maintain a high level of interest and my attention did flag when Tolstoy went on and on about religion and philosophy but he did it through the novel’s most charismatic and compassionate character, Levin, an autobiographical character, with whom I was alternately in love with and pounding him vicariously on the chest in frustration. It was also through Levin’s eyes that Tolstoy wrote his most beautiful passages about farming and hunting and the muzhiks in Russia.

Tolstoy claimed to have created a sympathetic character in Anna, who committed a crime that people today would find laughable (adultery) but at that time in Russia, a woman in an adulterous affair gave up any rights to her children and the option to remarry. Divorce was only possible if the husband wanted it. But I had a hard time sympathizing with a woman who abandoned one child and decided she didn’t care much for the child she had with her lover. Even at the end, when she was obviously losing her mind, I had a hard time ramping up any compassion for what was to me an unlikable character. In spite of the fact that the main protagonist was unlikable, I absolutely loved the book and highly recommend it.
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LibraryThing member GlebtheDancer
A brilliant example of realist prose describing two romances in nineteenth century Russian high society. This is undoubtedly a dense, slow moving book, but Tolstoy merely takes the time he needs to unravel the sexual and social politics of 1870s Russia by drawing intimate portraits of accessible (if not engaging) characters. He skillfully sets these relationships against the backdrop of serious political issues, not least the search for Russian identity in its twin slavic and European identities, and in its Christian and huimanist tendancies. This is a romance, and a historical novel, and a political tract, but unlike 'War and Peace', this time Tolstoy blends these almost seamlessly into a single narrative (there are occasionally overly didactic digressions, but not too many). It took me a while to read, but I enjoyed this book a lot. It may be the very definition of a 'heavy' classic, but if you fancy plunging in, you may find more reward in this than you ever imagined.… (more)
LibraryThing member superfastreader
Synopsis:

The tale of a society woman and her unconventional love affair contrasts with that of a landowner struggling with faith and duty.

Review:

Anna Karenina. The very words have struck me with fear and awe ever since a disastrous Russian History class in 12th grade, where I discovered my superpower’s limits for the first time. I elected to read Anna for my final paper because I wanted to read Anna, but I had four AP exams happening at the same time and should’ve chosen something much shorter. The whole thing blew up in my face and I ended up getting in trouble for not reading the entire book, which at my school was an honor offense. Since other girls in my class had out-and-out cheated, I ended up just having to take a C on the paper (which was very well-written on the 200 pages I actually read). I think that might have been what kept me out of my top-choice college but I ended up loving the school I went to so, as you see, things worked out for the best even though AP exams are my Kryptonite.

Here I am *cough* years later, and I find that Anna Karenina is an astonishingly fast read. I couldn’t be more riveted by all of the characters Tolstoy presents to me: passionate, foolish Anna; tormented, brooding Levin; flighty, honest Kitty; and “he’s just not that into you” Vronsky. Tolstoy masterfully shifts between (rare) third person omniscient, first person stream-of-consciousness, and many scenes where point-of-view shifts between several characters as they interact with each other.

As Anna and Vronsky’s relationship implodes, Tolstoy ratchets up the tension by leaving us inside Anna’s head as she has the mother of all panic attacks. Anyone who’s ever been unable to let well enough alone in a relationship will connect with Anna’s torment as she tries to force Vronsky to be loving towards her without seeing that her need and dependence is driving him away. She’s a black hole that can’t be filled, and Vronsky responds with the cold hammer of indifference. It’s horrifying, because it’s so true to life, and Tolstoy doesn’t miss a single shade of the horror.

Levin’s story was a welcome reprieve from Anna’s darkness. Though he’s suffering metaphysical pangs related to his inability to have faith, he never seems in danger the way Anna does, even though he contemplates suicide from time to time. I think it’s because his struggles are honest. He’s not lying to himself the way Anna is. Anna wants her infidelity to be something other than it is. She wants to call evil good. Levin, on the other hand, wants to know the nature of goodness, because, despite his atheism, he sees good in the world and wants to be as close to it as he can. His frustration comes when he sees how his own innate selfishness and pettiness keep him from his goal.

Some the best passages in Anna Karenina concern the nature of marriage, which Tolstoy examines from all angles. There are the bad marriages, of course, like Anna’s, and like that of Anna’s brother Oblonsky who is a compulsive philanderer. But there is also a marriage that’s just a normal marriage between two people trying to get used to one another. They have ups and downs, times of tenderness and times of warfare, and Tolstoy shows it all.

There are scenes in Anna Karenina that I’ll never forget: Levin in the fields mowing with the peasants, Kitty at the ball, Karenin forgiving his wife as she gives birth to another man’s son, Levin’s brother on his deathbed, Kitty’s giving birth to her first child, and many others–but most of all, I will never forget Anna, proud Anna with her dark hair and sad eyes. I want to shake her by the shoulders and tell her to see the truth about Vronsky, that their love is counterfeit, that she doesn’t have to put up with it from him or put up with Karenin’s mocking piety or society’s stupid rules. I’m so angry because I love her so very, very much.

(A note on the translation: I found the Joel Carmichael translation to be accessible, and the introduction said it has a lot to do with the naming conventions, which are English, not Russian (where you get all the patronyms and nicknames and different people calling the same person different things at different times. It must have worked, because I had no problem keeping the vast amount of characters and their relationships straight. I definitely recommend this translation.)
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LibraryThing member tairngire
Aside from the offputting length, the sometimes incomprehensible Russian names and titles (which my copy tried hard to diffuse) and the now dull and dated tangents into things like 19th century Russian politics and farming techniques, I loved Anna Karenina. There's something about reading novels by Russian writers, especially from the 19th century, that is simultaneously intriguing and daunting. And of course, Tolstoy is one of the best.

The thing I loved about Anna and the other characters were that they were so achingly human. It doesn't seem to happen often in a novel where you are at the same time disgusted, embarassed for, angry at, and empathetic with a character, because he/she is just so imperfect and real. As a reader, you want to take every character at one point, give them a well-deserved slap in the face and then a good hug.

While Levin, Karenin, Kitty, Vronsky, Anna and etc. are all completely different as people, there lies a sense in the novel that all of their fates are decided on how honestly they live: on how they can live true to themselves without the watchdog of society at their backs. I think this conflict, Tolstoy's use of realism and the tumultuous Russian psyche at the time, allows Anna Karenina to transcend beyond merely a tragic, upper-class love story and into something anyone can relate to.
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LibraryThing member C.Vick
Oh, so very, very, long, but one mostly doesn't notice until the final third of the book or so, even if one does wonder why it is called "Anna Karenina" and not "Konstantin Levin" or "Kitty Shcherbatskaya" or after any of a number of equally important characters.

Perhaps it is because Anna is so fascinating? So... real? As one who has suffered from depression and anxiety, Anna's internal workings were eerily familiar, and a little uncomfortable to observe.

Meanwhile, the contrast that the relationships of Kitty and Levin (a more ideal picture of marriage) and the Oblonskys (an exemplar of the difference between how society treats male infidelity versus female infidelity) could not be more perfect.

However, somewhere toward the end of the novel, Levin's spiritual quest begins to drag on and on and on and suddenly one realizes, "Heavens what a long novel this is!" And then, rather abruptly, it ends.

Oh well, little can be perfect in this world, but Anna Karenina is quite close to it.
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LibraryThing member Wanderlust_Lost
Tolstoy's tragic and evocative story of life, love, and death in 19th Century Russia is one of the best books I've read. Although it took me a long time to finish I found myself immediately engaging with the characters and drawn into their lives. This is not a "fast paced" novel of adultery and deciet like so many think it is. It's slow-paced, proceeding through the lives of one tragically unhappy extended family and touches on everything from their joys and successes in love, business, and sport to the shortcomings of hopes and aspirations.
I don't have many words for how good this book is. It made me cry, but mostly...it gave me hope. Although it is deeply tragic it is also very hopeful. I loved it. What can I say?
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LibraryThing member ijustgetbored
Anna Karenina is truly an epic on every level: characters, societal commentary, philosophical meditations, religious discourse, morality, the whole sweep of modern life. And the Russia we see is a Russia struggling with the modern in all these areas, trying to come to terms with new mores and new ideas against the background of rigid traditionalism, and this clash drives much of the novel. Anna herself is caught at the center of this clash: she is one the one hand first the wife of a very traditional man and on the other the lover of a "new" man, and certainly being a mistress living openly as such is a new position for a woman. And we see that such a clash can prove deadly-- or, in the case of Kitty and Levin, it can bring about new life and fruitfulness, when new ideas and old come together. Such is the nature of modern society, at once meanacing and tantalizing. Such is the nature of Anna Karenina, at once daunting in its scope but yet giving off a Siren's call to come read a beautifully-rendered work of modern literature.

The epic cast of characters provide mememorable conversation, memorable discourses, memorable arguments and philosophizing sessions. Without such a vast cast, this would have never been possible. At the same time, it's hard to take in so many people, and you have to be in the right frame of mind to read it. Simply put: be prepared. Even if it has a titular character, it's hard to say that there's a "main" character; everyone is so important to driving the ideas in the novel.

And what to say of the many beautiful scenes? Marriages, births, peasants working the fields? These will stick with you; they're all beatifully rendered, done in gorgeous detail, unique, personalized. Every such scene is a stand-out. Tolstoy has no stock scenes; there's no filler.

You do have to be mentally prepared for long passages about the condition of the peasants in Russia and the relationship of the aristocracy to them. This is not light reading. But the novel is not merely a love story; it's also a novel of ideas, of change, and these were some of the key changes Tolstoy was wrestling with. Again, that huge cast of characters is on hand to keep different viewpoints alive and in focus. When philosophy comes up, it's never pages of dull discourse; it's always an animated conversation. Ideas are living, organic things for Tolstoy, and they are embodied in (and modeled by) human beings.

The novel is a living, epic creation at every page. It wrangles real problems with real characters. Anna Karenina breathes life into 19th century Russia.
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LibraryThing member JessicaMichaelides
When I am asked the impossible question 'What is your favourite book?', I feel the most accurate answer I can give is 'Anna Karenina'.

This book is the ultimate reading experience. You learn, you love, you laugh. It took me a long time from start to finish, probably 2-3 months, to be honest (I was at Uni at the time, so all should be forgiven), and this no doubt contributed to the feeling of sadness I felt upon finishing it- the sadness of having to say goodbye to the characters I had gotten to know and love and who had almost become a part of my own life.

A wonderful book, your sould will thankyou for reading it.
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LibraryThing member AMQS
I had never read this classic before, so I'm glad my book club selected it last year. What I loved best about this sweeping, romantic tragedy was how Tolstoy gave equal weight and majesty to the great: forbidden love, adultery, women's rights, immigration, the Slavic Question, public education, as to the small: Vronsky squaring his accounts, Seryozha searching every woman's face when out in public, hoping for a glimpse of his mother, whom he refuses to believe is dead, the fury of a hungry baby not finding what it wants, the burning humiliation of not measuring up to your rivals. I suppose this is what makes it an epic. Tolstoy does a masterful job of getting into his characters heads and laying out their thoughts, particularly Levin's search for meaning and Anna's slow spiral into madness. I tried to be sympathetic to Anna, who at least was refusing to live a lie. She had no opportunities and no escape, and made unthinkable sacrifices for the sake of love. Still, it was hard for me to overcome her selfishness. I absolutely loved Levin, and thought he was a superb anchor for the book. A great, all-consuming read.… (more)
LibraryThing member SadieBabie
I found this book such a chore, that I found myself counting down the percentage notches on my Kindle as I read.

Long winded, dull and self indulgent - tedious drivel with a weak storyline and characters who do not work hard enough to earn the reader's sympathies. The story itself could have been told in half the time if Tolstoy had been able to see past his desire to dazzle us all with just how intellectual he was and simply stripped out the monotonous passages on farming, religion and politics. The themes of jealousy and self doubt could have been expanded on...perhaps then I'd have cared what happened to Anna.

I'm glad I can say I've read it...but I certainly wont be recommending it or touching War and Peace.
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LibraryThing member jddunn
Re-reading this in the new P-V translation. Tolstoy is the master of uniting the Big and the Small; beautifully detailing inner life, and tying it together with social life and the larger state of the world. He also seems somehow able to put himself in just about anyone’s shoes, writing men, women, aristocrats, peasants, children, even animals with a deft compassion and empathy.Anna K. has all of these things, and in a more accessible and personal package than War and Peace(which I also love.) I actually like the Levin/Kitty side story a lot better than the doomed Anna/Vronsky love affair, but the novel wouldn’t be as great without both, and the contrast that they set up. In the end, this is a novel about personal growth and evolution, and the myriad pathways: joyful, tragic, and everything in between, that it can take.… (more)
LibraryThing member ArmchairAuthor
I got more than I expected (and I liked it).

The novel Anna Karenina is composed of parallel narratives: the story of Anna Arkadyevna Karenin’s dive from grace (a fall implies an accident), and Konstantin Dmitrich Levin’s search for meaning and purpose in a country that is swiftly changing around him. Both stories are played out in the highest social circles of 19th century Russia, among people who admire and condemn Anna’s passionate decision-making by turns and continually condemn Levin for failing to observe a host of social “niceties” borrowed from the French. Rounding out the tale are all the characters who travel between the Levin and Anna’s spheres: Anna’s lover Vronsky and the young girl he was toying with before he spotted Anna (Kitty Scherbatsky), Anna’s philandering brother Stepan Arkadyich Oblonsky and his long-suffering wife Dolly (sister of Kitty), and Anna’s cuckolded husband Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin.

Add to this milieu a host of other Russians with a pile of names each, which change depending on who is addressing them (Stepan, for example, might be referred to as Stepan, Stiva, Oblonsky, or Stepan Arkadyich), and there is a lot going on.

William Makepeace Thackeray said of his novel Vanity Fair that he had written “a novel without a hero”. If Thackeray reveled in the wickedness and self-centered nature of the characters in his epic, Tolstoy has sympathy for each and every one of his. Anna Karenina is the kind of book that teaches one a lot about oneself, as each character is presented from his (or her) own point of view and the reader is left to choose sides. Oblonsky is as charismatic and socially adept as he is irresponsible, Alexei Karenin’s dutiful and magnanimous nature is undercut by his emotional reticence. Tolstoy did a phenomenal job of presenting an extremely complex situation equally from all sides.

Awesome Stuff:

1. This novel is a master class in pacing. Tolstoy brings the reader to the absolute edge of blibbering despair with the impossibility of Anna’s situation, only to take up Levin’s story in the next section which is on a happier tack. The two narratives balance each other this way through the whole novel: if Anna’s up, Levin’s down and vice versa. Only once do they come together in tone if not time and space, the “long dark night of the soul” that decides the fate of each character.

2. The analogies and metaphors. It’s a classic for a reason. An example, the feelings of Anna’s husband after reaching a decision about her situation (over which he had quite literally worried himself sick):

“He felt like a man who has had a long-aching tooth pulled out. After the terrible pain and the sensation of something huge, bigger than his head, being drawn from his jaw, the patient, still not believing in his good fortune, suddenly feels that what had poisoned his life and absorbed all his attention for so long exists no more, and that he can again live, think and be interested in something other than his tooth.”

3. The complexity. This is not a novel in which the suffering wife leaves the loutish brute of a husband for her sexy new lover, riding off into the sunset on a white horse. That may be how Anna sees it for a time, but she is the only one, and the novel shows the far-reaching effects of each of her choices. Choices that have consequences not only for her, but for her son, her husband, Vronsky, her brother, her in-laws, her friends. No one associated with her escapes her affair unscathed. Equally as complex is Levin’s search for meaning and companionship, though it is a source of one of the novel’s less successful attributes.

Less Awesome Stuff

1. Things lost in translation. This is a book translated not only from a language with an alphabet fundamentally different from my native tongue, but from a culture two hundred years past. Once I got the hang of Russian naming conventions, there were still many moments in the novel at which I felt I was not quite getting the sense of something due to cultural differences. Something meaningful was happening but I didn’t have the knowledge to comprehend it.

2. Footnotes at the end. It’s a matter of taste, but I like my footnotes on the page with the relevant text, so I can inform my understanding and adjust my impressions as I read. With them at the end I end up just reading all of them once I finish the novel, rather than flipping back and forth. The translation itself was very good, great pains were taken to maintain the sense of things.

3. The axes. Levin’s story is often used to elaborate the author’s feelings on certain issues. There are lengthy passages on farming, feudalism versus socialism versus communism, Russian election practices, faith and spirituality, etc. The ax-grinding sessions came very close to swamping the narrative, like the whaling chapter in Moby Dick or the socialist manifesto that commandeered the last third of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

It’s a very good novel, and well-deserving of it’s recognition as a classic, but it’s probably not for everyone. There is a lot of heavy thinking to do, and I re-read pages many times when I felt I hadn’t absorbed the text. History buffs, introverts, and those with a sociological bent will love it as-is. If you just want the drama, skip Levin’s story and read only the parts concerning Anna and Vronsky.
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LibraryThing member eromsted
I will not attempt to provide a full review of this extensive book, instead constraining myself to the following comments.
For those who are not Russophiles, or typically readers of the "Classics," don't be put off by the length of Karénina. The novel was originally published in serial form and is easily read in pieces. Tolstoy was also writing something of the soap-opera of his day replete with love triangles, deceit, betrayal and tragic death.
Of course Tolstoy was also dealing in deeper issues, and I will mention only one which stood out in my mind. A clear theme of the novel is the "double standard." But I think that for Tolstoy this is in simply, or even primarily, a matter of the social norms governing sex.
Anna defies the social restrictions placed on women by leaving the husband whom she doesn't love and who has no real love for her, and going to live with the man she does love. Of particular transgression is the fact that she does this openly and honestly rather than retaining the facade of a marriage while indulging in an affair. For these crimes Anna is ostracized from society, stripped of her child and has her life unendurably constricted.
Contrast this with Konstantin Levin (who I would argue is the main character of the novel). Levin is abysmal at everything society says a man should be. As a young man he a failure at courtship. He is totally uncomfortable in society. He has no interest in politics. He has some intellectual ideas, but can't relate to the academics. He runs his estate in an unusual manner which does not accord to the norms of social class. And worst of all, he is a non-believer in an Orthodox society.
Yet although these failings trouble Levin personally, none of them bar him from society and at every turn he is given second chances. In the end he is able to come to terms with his beliefs and his life in his own way.
I think it is the fact that Anna is barred from a similar path to a personal understanding of morality that is Tolstoy's chief complaint against the social treatment of women.
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LibraryThing member maykasahara
It is a scary thought that the experience of reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which came as a result of a strange and unpredictable sequence of impulses, could just as easily have been denied me. A serendipity moment no doubt, on that Saturday morning in July when the bookseller offered a pocket version against a discount price, which my mother could not resist buying and decided to bring for me as a gift to our appointment that same afternoon after we hadn’t seen each other for quite while, not knowing that I would later that day spend time waiting in the local botanical gardens for someone who didn’t show up, giving me a lost hour or so in which I had nothing to do but browse into these very first pages, getting to know about Oblonski (or Stiwa) and his unfaithful nature, being introduction enough to get hooked on Tolstoy’s depth and precision and sensing that a 1,000 pages more of this didn’t seem the least bit daunting.

And now that I’ve finished there are so many passages that I could cite or emphasise, to underline Tolstoy’s brutal mastery of writing and psychology. But I feel that I haven’t got the time. Because I just want to run to the bookstore and take a handful from the shelves: his memoires about his childhood and adolescence, The death of Ivan Iljitsj, War and Peace, and whatever else they might have.

Considering the length of his work, I could be on the brink of a period of very slow living, in which my friends and girlfriend might suffer from serious neglect. But they should not feel let down. Because if my absence is too much for them to handle, I know the perfect recipe: let’s go girls and boys, start reading Tolstoj!
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LibraryThing member jnwelch
SPOILERS APLENTY Don't read this if you're worried about spoilers. It's not really a review, but some thoughts that came up from reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

Maybe because I'm cold and heartless, I found Anna's high-pitched emotionality grating. Once she got on the Vronsky train, she gradually (or not so gradually) transformed from an elegant, composed, thoughtful woman into a caterwaul. Obviously, a major reason for this was the tension caused by her complete obsession with Vronsky - he was her only hope, as she says more than once - and the disapproval of society wherever they went. (An idyll in Italy is the exception, but they find it unsatisfying). By the end, Anna's obsessive jealousy and desperate need for more of his love has her destroying their relationship. Vronsky isn't exactly admirable, so dumping him would have been fine, but of course the only solution she finds is to commit suicide by throwing herself under a train.

Levin (someone said he's an autobiographical character for Tolstoy) and Kitty, with their measured, thoughtful and largely graceful love, were a huge relief throughout for me from the Anna-Vronsky high-pitched passion. Tolstoy of course works that contrast in dramatic ways through much of the book. Levin and Kitty for some reason made me think of Louisa May Alcott's books. The plane they operated on was beautiful to read about. Also, Jane Austen came to mind, as Kitty first foolishly turns down Levin's proposal due to an infatuation with Vronsky, and learns to regret it before she and Levin finally are reunited.

What kept running through my mind was, what would Anna be like today in this situation? Would pharmaceuticals help alleviate her anxiety, and enable her to deal more rationally with her life? Soften that irrepressible hatred for Karenin, allow her to visit more reasonably with her son, help her avoid her irrational desperation toward Vronsky and find a way to happiness? What about easy, no-fault divorce? Instead of the sturm and drang with Karenin, just go your separate ways, marry that putz Vronsky, and carry on. How about a more progressive society, with much less of the shunning?

I know, she's the title character, very important, look at all we'd lose. But would we? If a more sensible Anna made more sensible choices in a more sensible world, would we still care about her? I'd be willing to find out, if only to get some relief from her clanging emotions, particularly toward the end. (I'm fine with emotional characters generally, but the increasingly falling apart Anna I'd had enough of). And maybe a more sensible Anna would mean we could get more of Levin and Kitty's story, which would be fine with me. (I could do with a whole lot less of Levin's religious and philosophical questioning, by the way, but we'll leave that for another day). We might end up with Alcott-like or Austen-like characters sorting it out. If we wanted to keep a similar dynamic, Anna could be a Lydia-equivalent I suppose, with Vronsky as Wickham.

All right, enough carping. The Maude translation was smooth and engaging. There were beautiful stretches in the book, like Levin mowing with the peasants, and the birth of Levin and Kitty's son, with Levin desperately frightened that Kitty might not survive. The latter was well-contrasted with Anna wishing she had died in childbirth, as that would have "solved everything." I was also struck at the end by Vronsky's trying to remember Anna as she was at the beginning of their relationship, rather than the "cruelly vindictive" (from his POV) Anna at the end.

I'm glad I read Anna Karenina, but you can tell it will never be up there as a favorite for me.
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LibraryThing member clong
I know this book is on many all time best novels lists, and, having loved War and Peace when I first read it some 35 years ago, I had expected to like Anna Karenina. But I didn't.

I found Anna and Vronsky and Karenin to all be odious (and Oblonsky for that matter). If anything, they deserved each other. I liked Levin, but found him frustrating and his pseudo-epiphany at the end rather trite. I thought Kitty and Dolly were shallow and inept.

I kept looking for some insightful commentary on Russian society, an indictment of the Petersburg world in which, as Vronsky observes, "paltry, stupid, and, above all, ridiculous people" embrace conventional morality and real people "abandon themselves unblushingly to all their passions and laugh at everything else." But in the end all I could see was an admonition be faithful (to God, not one's spouse).

I kept wondering whether I was missing some nuance, whether a different translation might have connected the dots in a way that this one did not. Oh, well...
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LibraryThing member Foxen
Wow. Truly a book of epic proportions, that very much deserves its status as a classic. I think this books is generally revered for the breadth of humanity it portrays, and I think that that is generally the best sense in which to understand it. It is basically a social novel in the European style (think Jane Austen, et al.), but generally much much larger. It follows the interconnected lives of a handful of characters through their relatively normal lives. No larger-than-life heroes, just the large-ness of the mundane lives that everyone leads. Regular people making their decisions and living with them, coming to terms with the world around them.

Going into this book I knew nothing about it, except for the fate of the title character (I won't spoil it, but knowing the spoiler probably actually helped keep my interest in the slower sections). Retrospectively, I found Anna the least interesting of the characters. Everyone involved is well-developed and their interconnected stories successfully explore their characters and motivations. On the surface this sounds like a book (an 850 page book, at that) with no particular plot to speak of, that's just kind of "about people" in the most vague way possible, but it really is an insightful look at the human condition, and earns its length, in my opinion. Well worth the effort!
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LibraryThing member jpreid
Ignore the melodramatic Jane Austin plotline, this book is really all about the cultural conflict that Russia continues to struggle with.
LibraryThing member SpartanVartan
It took me awhile to decide whether or not I liked this book, mostly because of the length (it's a little exhausting!). But altogether, I think I enjoyed it and like the message the book sends at the end.
LibraryThing member thornton37814
I will not attempt to summarize this work of literature. The plot is well-known and other reviewers have done an excellent job doing so. Themes of the book are adultery, including the church's attitude toward it. the political changes occurring in Russia at the time, and attitudes toward religion. Anna was not that likeable of a character. She abandoned her child. She would ask for something to happen and then refuse it when the opportunity presented itself. I enjoyed many of the descriptions, particularly those set on the farm. Tolstoy did a great job in developing characters. The book still has relevance for today's readers and is why it is still considered to be one of literature's all-time classics.… (more)
LibraryThing member KendraRenee
I love Tolstoy's character development: Levin, Kitty, Anna, Seryosha, Vronsky, Karenin, Oblonsky, and Dolly's, especially. He writes from each person's perspective truly as if he were that person ... it's spectacular, and absorbing.

I also found Levin's observations of the Russian peasantry and agricultural system highly interesting, not to mention his thoughts on faith, religion, belief, and the church. I was saddened by his conversion at the end, honestly; it disappointed me. Seemed far too simple and sudden, like a quick-fix to thoughts and questions that, in my opinion, shouldn't have had any answers at all.

Anna's end was the most heart-wrenching part of the book. To follow her story through the whole affair, divorce, and then her own death makes the reader sympathize with even the most "amoral" character in the book. I don't know why she earns the scarlet letter, though. To me, Vronsky seems just as guilty as her, if not more so.
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Publication

Nelson Doubleday, Inc.

Language

Original publication date

1873-1877
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