Thursday 7 July 2011

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina is beautiful, wealthy, a mother to a son she adores, well loved and married to a man high in society and moving higher. She believes herself happy with these things. That is until she visits her brother in order to reconcile him and his wife. There she meets Count Vronsky and as much as she tries to prevent it she falls in love. From then on caution is thrown to the wind and she becomes the talk of society. She willingly loses everything just for him.

Not really what I was expecting at all. I was expecting a big torrid love affair. Okay, so there was some of that but the book isn't just about Karenina and the scandal she causes. Sure it's a big part of it but there are other characters in there who had just as large of a story to tell. I liked the story of Anna and Vronsky. Although I have to say I felt very little sympathy for them. He came across as selfish and spoiled wanting a new toy only to discard it when he grew bored. Eventually though he grows up and actually becomes a more likeable character for it. Anna begins as likeable and slowly throws that away. She becomes jealous and irrational and despite how much she loves her son she still leaves him behind.

The two character I really loved were part of the secondary storyline. I loved Kitty and Levin. I have always said that I don't have a romantic bone in my body but I couldn't help but want the best for these characters. I wanted their romance to spark and for them to be happy. Sure, Levin was a little irritating, moody and self involved at times but that didn't stop me from liking him. I also loved Anna's sister in law, Dolly, who is a suffering wife but clearly dotes on her children.

If none of these things appeal to you then there is the political aspect. It portrayed the Russian elite as spoiled, frivolous and at times work shy. Through Levin and a few other characters it gave a sounding board to some of the political changes that were beginning to take place in Russia then. That alone was interesting. I always seemed to concentrate on Russian history whilst at University which is why I found it so fascinating.

So many different facets to this wonderful book it would need more than one post to cover it all. I think that most people would get something from it. It's not just a tragic love story. Needless to say that this is now one of my favourite classics. I definitely recommend it. I will say though that if you aren't used to Russian literature (which I'm not) the names can be confusing. Stick with it though as you do get used to it.

If you are wondering about this lovely cover it's part of the Penguin red classics series. Not only do you get a pretty book but 50% of the profits from this book goes to the Global Fund to help eliminate AIDS in Africa. I don't work for penguin, honest.


  1. This has been on my TBR list for eons, and part of my 100 Classics Challenge, so I'll finally have to get to it by the end of the year. Also, one of my friends can't stop gushing about it.

  2. +JMJ+

    While I have no plans to read this book any time soon, I've been fascinated by Tolstoy ever since I read The Last Station by Jay Parini, a wonderful novel about his last days and what he meant to everyone in Russia even while he lived.

    I'm also fascinated by books in which characters are both three-dimensional individuals and emblems for entire sectors of society or political movements, and the more I read about Anna Karenina, the more I'm certain it is one of them.

  3. This book is in my 100 book challenge list and I'm really looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the review.

  4. I hope you guys like it when you get round to reading it.

    Enbrethiliel, I read something about his life on Wikipedia. I tend to search authors there when I am reading one for the first time. It seems he had quite a sad life in the end. Anna Karenina was written during his happiest moments. This book definitely covers society and political movements although much of the society is from the point of view of the elite/privileged. That's not to say that it's not sympathetic to other aspects of society.

  5. This is another classic that has been on my TBR list for much, much too long!

  6. If I tell you I read Anna Karenina at "half the time" edition, would you call me a cheater? :) I did. I read the half the time series for this. I probably miss some bits but didn't miss any of the major events of her life. I'm glad you like it and I saw these Waterstone editions before which includes Zola's Theresa Raquin

  7. Bibliojunkie, as much as abridged books irritate me I would never judge someone for reading them. Anna Karenina is quite heavy going at times so I can understand why someone would want to. Saying that I think it would have probably have missed out my favourite parts although a lot of them were unnecessary to the ongoing story. I bet editors wouldn't let him away with that now.

    These editions are lovely aren't they. I was tempted to get Dracula but restrained myself since I already have it. I am sure I will pick up more as I read more classics. If it's not these ones it's the Vintage classic covers which I have raved about before.