My goal is to read 25 books this year, so I thought that I'd post a review after I finish each. While I'm a bit embarrassed that this is the first book I've finished in 2013, Anna Karenina is a beast of a book (coming in at about 1,000 pages), especially to be reading in addition to my graduate school coursework. Now that this one is behind me, I'm sure these book reviews will be coming in more frequently. You can follow my progress at Goodreads.
Some books are hard to wrap my mind around. They are vast, larger than life, and often the books that have stuck around for a long time. Anna Karenina is that type of book. Not just because of it's length and Tolstoy's wordy prose, but also parts of the subject matter were difficult to digest.
Anna Karenina follows the all-consuming love affair between Anna and Count Vronsky. It follows them as they fall into passionate relations and Anna decides to leave her husband. Over time, Anna becomes increasingly ostracized because of her "fallen" position. Tolstoy describes Anna's eventual breakdown as her world closes in on her, blames and targets her for her decision, and she relies on only Vronsky to fulfill her.
Additionally, we follow Levin and Kitty as they navigate their courtship and then newlywedded relationship. This blissful beginning is an nice juxtaposition to Anna's and Vronsky's messy relationship and to Anna's and Karenin's separation. Levin's storyline is heavily invested in farming politics, which frankly was over my head.
Overall, the character's in Anna Karenina were all in pursuit of one thing: a happy, fulfilled life. Anna and Vronsky sought fulfillment in each other. Levin sought it in an egalitarian working relationship between landowner and peasant, but found it truly in Kitty. Tolstoy is clear to show us that what we think will make us happy, often doesn't. This is demonstrated through Anna's breakdown as her world collapses after leaving her husband for the one that is sure to make her happy, Vronsky. Vronsky too, feels surprisingly unfulfilled.
I loved parts of this book. I was intrigued by the social structures and protocols and captivated by how clearly we came to understand the inner-thinking of many characters. However, I am of the school that "less is more," and Tolstoy uses a repetitive, wordy syntax that made Anna Karenina challenging to read.
Have you read Anna Karenina? What did you think?