50 Books- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Where did I get the book and how many pages?
I do not have a clue where I got this book. Most likely one a base somewhere, sometime recently. Wherever it came from, it is a monster of a book with 923 pages.
Have I read this book before?
No. I had heard of it, but that is all.
What do I already know?
Not much. I was pretty sure it was Russian, but I wasn’t sure where that thought came from. The cover of the book has a quote calling it one of the greatest love stories in world literature, however the quote is from Vladimir Nabokov, the author of Lolita, so there may be a different kind of love story in mind here.
What do I think now?
I did not like Anna Karenina. I’m not talking about the book, I’m talking about he character in the book. T
This is a book told in eight parts. The way each part begins and ends gives the impression that this was originally released as a series of books, but I am not certain. I know it was a way books used to be released, but of course, anything is possible.
During the first part, Anna is a sweet person. She travels, trying to help her cheating brother save his marriage, and meets a young military man, Vronsky. Her intense attraction sends her running away back to her husband. This is the last moment when I understand and have any respect for the character. Soon he follows her, and they begin having an affair.
Now, I know, everyone has their own opinion as to the romance level in stories involving extramarital affairs. I personally do not enjoy them. I don’t think betraying another person that way, no matter how horrible the person is, is something to be admired. I know, some of these stories are from a different time, a time when leaving a spouse was not only not done, but almost impossible for a female. Either way, I have a hard time thinking of a story that surrounds an illicit affair as a romance. The longer the story went on, the less I liked the characters and the less I wanted them to be happy. In the end their tragic romance ending seemed fitting. Yes, it was horrible and sad, but not surprising in the least. Okay, the exact details surprised me, but the fact that bad things happened did not.
I think one of the hardest parts of the story was the treatment of the husband. In the beginning I had the impression they were happy. Anna rushed home to him, and he greeted her lovingly. Maybe it was just me projecting my own marriage and life, but I assumed they were happy. Later, as Anna dives full in to her affair, suddenly there is extensive talk about how horrible of a person her husband is, painting him as controlling. I found him to be excessively understanding. When she tells him she is in love with someone else, and hates him, he shuts down in the moment. He does not do well with tears and emotions, and he had been given bad news. When he calms down a little he tells Anna, they will continue to be married (which gives them both the continued social protection their marriage always had) and all he asks is that she does not have her lover in their house. He is not throwing her out, he is not making a scene, and he is not even demanding that she never sees him again. Just, not in our house. Trust me, my husband would NEVER react that way. And Anna could not handle that one stipulation. It just gave me more sympathy for the husband.
There was more romantic stories along the way. The story between Kitty and Levin, a man who deeply loved someone, and waited, knowing if he could not have her, he would never love anyone else. They had a few bumps, but I never stopped rooting for them.
The general story was well written and compelling. It was slightly confusing along the way, as the names were foreign to me, and each character was known by at least two different names. I didn’t like the ‘hero’ of the story, or at least the woman for whom the book was named, but I liked almost everything else.
Should you read this book before you die?
The tragic romance is an interesting genre, and not one I particularly enjoy. I don’t root for these couples, and I am almost happy when things go bad for them. However, that does not mean it is a useless style of story. Just as much can be learned for the poor relationship examples as the wonderful ones.
Coming up next, Heart of Darkness, followed by A Passage to India.
Happy Reading everyone!