Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Anna Karenina

"In his Petersburg world, humanity was divided into two absolutely distinct categories, - the one of a low order, trivial, stupid, and above all ridiculous people, who declared that one husband ought to live with one wedded wife, that girls should be virtuous, women chaste, men brave, temperate, and upright, occupied in bringing up their children decently, in earning their bread, and paying their debts, and other such absurdities. People of this kind were old-fashioned and ridiculous." -Vronsky from Anna Karenina (p.118)

While I do own this book, my copy is currently in a box in storage, so I had not planned on reading it this year. However, I recently joined the Five Alarm Books Club and this was one of the two choices for July. So why I am reviewing it in the middle of August? Especially when I began reading it in the middle of June to get a head start? Well, because I tried to keep reading the books off my shelf while tackling this behemoth. As you can see, it didn't work so well when I picked up Ireland (the next to be reviewed by me) a book just as hefty as Anna Karenina. Finally, I decided to put aside my book shelf to finish this one that I was on a dead line with, and so here I am, finally finished, and glad I pushed through.

So, the book is named after one of the lead characters, and while I understand that she is involved in the lifes of each character, I think it might have been best if Tolstoy had picked a title more along the lines of "Life In Society" or "Days of Russian Lives". I think naming after Anna was not such a good idea. Especially since Anna has to be everyone's least favorite character. (If I am wrong, and you happened to like Anna, please let me know, because every review I have seen so far puts Anna down. I would love to hear form someone with a different opinion.) I know I am not a big fan of Madame Karenin, but instead prefer Levin and Kitty as my top picks of the book.

And while I did manage to learn a bit more about society, farming, and politics in the "filler" between events in the story, I could not help but find myself comparing these bits to the chapter on whale fat or flotsom and jetsom found in Moby Dick (the chapters we were not made to read because it was completely irrelevent. I am sure all that was interesting to some people at the time at which the book was written, but to us now it is simply details to fill in the gaps in the story. In my opinion, that is.

There were times within the last 30 or so pages when I thought the story should have ended at the last major event, but it kept on going. Once I reached the end, however, I found that I was wrong. 1) it is best that the story began and ended with the focus on Levin. 2) The final reflections I think ended the story very well. Adding something to the narrative and characters that was needed. 3) I think it Tolstoy showed how necessary it was to know how that last major event affected the other characters. I was in fact a little surprised by the reaction it got from one character in particular, but that is all I will say on that.

As I have said, I am glad I took the time to push through this novel when I should have been done or given it up 2 weeks ago. And with the movie coming out soon, I am glad I have a better understanding of the story than if someone had simply explained it to me. I do recommend that everyone take the chance to read this book at some time in their lives. t is a classic for a reason, and I believe it wears that title rather well. This story has a very complex series of battles that each character must deal with including, but not limited to: infadelity, unrequited love, scandel, bankruptsy, and wavering friendships. And it all takes place in roughly 1800's Russia when things were much more strict than they are now.

So pick up the book and give it a chance. You might be surprised at how much relevance this book has on to today's world view. And even how much you might find yourself enjoying Anna sordid tale!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review, Christine. Thanks for helping me remember a classic.


    PS Please stop over at my blog and see my giveaway of "Stranger in the Room"