Anna Karenina seems to have everything – beauty, wealth, popularity and an adored son.
But she feels that her life is empty until the moment she encounters the impetuous officer Count Vronsky. Their subsequent affair scandalizes society and family alike, and soon brings jealousy and bitterness in its wake.
Contrasting with this tale of love and self-destruction is the vividly observed story of Levin, a man striving to find contentment and meaning to his life – and also a self-portrait of Tolstoy himself.
I started this book back in May when in a frenzy, I downloaded all of the free classics onto my Kobo eReader. I read about a quarter of the way through and must have got to a tedious spot because I started reading other books and didn’t really come back to it. A few weeks ago I decided I wasn’t to read another book until I finished this one so it wasn’t hanging over my head anymore. Maybe once I’ve read through the piles of books next to my bed I will start my quest to read all the classics I downloaded 🙂
The story was quite complex and even though its called Anna Karenina, it not only follows her betrayal and the subsequent consequences of that betrayal but it also follows closely the life of Konstantin Levin (quite a portion of the book is devoted to his incessant thinking from agricultural pursuits to philosophy and the meaning of life and whether God exists). The story also touches on Anna’s brother and his family. Having read a little about Tolstoy himself, I understand the complexity of the book a lot more.
The premise of the story was interesting however there were parts that were extremely tedious and long. I understand that in the era that it was written they didn’t have a lot to do so when reading they didn’t want short books however I do feel some of it was a little bit too much. Then again that depends on who the book is aimed at. If Tolstoy was aiming at people interested in long thought processes about agriculture, politics and philosophy then he achieved that however I think people see the premise of the story and assume its just a highly dramatic love story – it is so much more than that.
It was strange because i wasn’t drawn into the story right from the beginning and there were large parts that dragged however there were some parts that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough (or tap the screen because it was on my eReader 😉 ).
I liked most of the characters except for Anna. At the beginning i didn’t mind her so much however towards the end i started to really dislike her. I think Tolstoy really drove his point home that loving one person without anything else in your life is really not enough and drives you to insanity. I have to say that the characters were extremely well developed, however with the length and content of the book you would expect that!
Something that I found difficult throughout was the constant phrases in French. I feel like I missed out on quite a bit because I didn’t understand what was being said.
I have to say that the ending was not what I expected (in some aspects). However it does in a way make sense. Basically without spoiling it, the story is about two very different people’s lives and what happiness means to them and their purpose in living. His views are certainly shown in how only living your life for God will truly give you peace.
Overall I really did enjoy the book, despite some of the tedious parts. I didn’t cheat like my Mum who skipped those parts, I read everything word for word!
I would definitely recommend this book however not really as a lighthearted, quick read more as a philosophical romance (if there is such a thing!) and i would say one thing – you get out of it what you put in.