I almost didn’t do a review for this book, because how do you review such a classic? I mean, not only is this book one of the greatest examples of Russian literature, it’s also an Oprah’s book club pick. Meaning: everyone and their grandmother has read, or at least claims to have read, Anna Karenina. But in the end, I decided to share some of my thoughts.
Let me start with the two things that bothered me. First: the names. I’m pretty sure a big part of the reason I wasn’t sure what was going on in the first third of this book is because Tolstoy used the same three names for almost everyone. Not only that, but each of the main characters is referred to by several nicknames, which Tolstoy uses interchangeably. For example, Princess Dárya Alexándrovna is also referred to as Dolly, Dásha, Dáshenka, and Dóllenka. Most modern writers tend to steer clear of this to avoid confusion, and reading Anna Karenina definitely reinforced that idea in my mind. It’s a bit hard to keep up. And second, I kind of didn’t care about the whole Levin farming storyline. Which upset me a little because I really liked Levin. Don’t know if it’s just me (and it pains me to criticize this book), but I almost feel like some of the subplots detracted from the story a bit. Let me know what you think.
It took me an inordinately long time to get through this book. I had some trouble getting into it, and kept putting it down for weeks or months at a time. I forced myself to read this book, and at one point, went through and put post-its denoting how much I needed to read each day. When I hit the halfway point (page 409), I started to think I might actually finish it. And then somewhere around page 500, I finally realized Tolstoy’s genius. I’m not going to say I love this book, and I don’t think it’s the best thing I’ve ever read, but it is a work of art. The love story between Levin and Kitty reminded me a bit of a Jane Austen love story: like Pride and Prejudice told from Darcy’s point of view. Tolstoy somehow had me rooting for Anna and Vronsky while at the same time thinking Anna was crazy and being incredibly happy when her husband finally stood up for himself. Farming theory and Imperial Russian politics aside, this story is timeless. I won’t ruin the ending for you (in case you don’t already know it), but it was both tragic and satisfying. (Almost as satisfying as actually having finished this book.)
Have you read Anna Karenina? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
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