Saturday, January 5, 2013

Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Normal people living banal lives with a little affair and suicide to spice things up in Imperial Russia.

There. That's Anna Karenina.

But I guess that won't cut it in terms of a proper review, now will it?

Title: Anna Karenina
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Publication Date: 1877
Publisher: Barnes and Nobles Classics
Where I got it: Barnes and Noble- Huntersville, NC
Number of pages: 754
Dates I read it: December 9, 2012 - January 5, 2013
Number of Stars: 4 out of 5

Okay. So, Reader, it took me almost an entire month to read this damn book. I realize that I am probably giving you the impression that I disliked this book, and that's not an entirely fair impression to give as I did not dislike the book as a whole. I started off loving the book and was very into it. However, towards part 6 I started to wan on my happy feelings. I started to criticize and pick at each of the characters. You know how when you spend too much time with someone that you like you start to feel this burning hatred for them whenever they move or say something or breathe or smile or sigh?! That's how I got to be with this book and with the characters. The book was too long. Yeah, I said it. The version that I read was almost 800 pages long and dear Mr. Tolstoy, you do not need to take up an entire page of people deciding who they should go and visit and then having them not go and visit them at all. Trivial.

So, Anna Karenina is the story of two main characters- Anna Karenina and Konstantin Levin. Anna is married to Alexy Alexandrovitch who is stuffy and boring and serious and old and she does not love him. Levin is a hard-working farmer who is, for some reason, in love with Kitty. Kitty is a bore and I do not care for her. Kitty is pretty sure that Alexy Vronsky is going to ask for her annoying little hand in marriage and just before this happens, Vronsky falls for Anna and suddenly- passionate affair! Anna gives up her status and her beloved son and becomes an outcast in order to be with Vronsky. Soon she becomes jealous and raging and crazy and convinced that he will leave her for another (now, where the hell would she get a crazy idea like that?!) so she (SPOILER ALERT, kinda) jumps in front of a train to make him sorry and to end the cray-cray life that she has been leading. Meanwhile, in Russia, Levin has finally found the courage to swoop in on a rejected Kitty and get her to agree to marry him or else become a spinster. They have their ups and downs as a couple but basically end up in happy ever after land with a baby on a farm.

So, like I said, the book was really just about normal people living normal lives. I may sound unappreciative, but actually, that was what made the book so great and Tolstoy was able to take these characters and make them real and tedious and borning like we all really are (except maybe Lady Gaga). They were relatable and honest and raw and I have read a lot of reviews where people say that they hate Anna and can't understand her motives, but Reader, I saw a lot of myself in Anna. I wouldn't normally admit that to just anyone, Reader, but I appreciate you and I trust you and so yeah, I am a lot like Anna. I can be a real hot-head and I can be jealous and I am immature and I am rash just like she was. I was able to see pieces of myself in almost every character, even Alexy Alexandrovitch. The characters were abundant, but they were all, even the smallest of small characters, well and perfectly formed. Tolstoy is a master of the characterization and for this, I was able to forgive the novel its length.

I liked the book. I did not love it and I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. However, there are some themes in the novel that I think many people, even today can relate to. Consider- what is the position of the lower class citizens? Do they deserve government assistance or are they to be shunned and used only as labor? What about women's rights? The hypocrisy of the men in this novel is astounding. Anna has one affair and is never to be forgiven yet almost every man (minus the endearing Levin) has affairs all throughout the novel. It was a tedious, but thought-provoking read and I am glad to be able to put this brick of a Russian masterpiece finally on my "read" shelf.


  1. I absolutely loved this book and thought Tolstoy was a genius when writing about the human condition. However, I read it in a shorter time frame (two weeks, whilst on holiday), so I perhaps didn't have time to get annoyed with the characters.

  2. Hahaha! I bet that's it! I think if I had read it faster, I wouldn't have been so upset at them. I think we just spent too much time together. I recognized that that was my problem, and I still enjoyed the book so much, it still got four out of five stars from me. It was such a great look at the human condition and Tolstoy blew me away with how he mastered capturing it! He is undeniably an amazing author and I wouldn't mind reading more by him (I just might need to do it on holiday next time!!)