Saturday, July 9, 2011

Review: Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

I finished Anna Karenina yesterday.

I'm glad I read it (so I can say that I have) and I'm glad it's over. I think Russian authors desire to make their readers suffer as much as the characters in their books. :)

The fact is, it's an interesting story (mostly about Anna's infidelity - although there are many other social issues hinted at) but there's just too much of it for me. Tolstoy (in my opinion) tends to belabor the point of many things, and I wish he would have done this a little less.

Anna Karenina is really two stories in one, Anna's story and her brother Levin's story... Tolstoy could have written two (or maybe even three) novels instead of shoving all the stories of these relations (and others) into one. Although, each of their stories is tied into the theme of each of them searching for happiness in life. I'm not quite certain that anyone finds it, according to Tolstoy.

** Spoiler **
I did feel cheated by Anna's suicide at the end of Book 7. I couldn't help wondering why Tolstoy continued writing after his main character offed herself. And I was disappointed that I had to plod through Book 8 to get to the end. Levin's religious soul-searching in B8 (and his own thoughts of suicide) seemed off-theme to me, and I just wanted it to be over.

I couldn't help but feel that Anna's eventual suicide was her own fault, due in part to her decision not to accept a divorce from her husband. When her feelings changed and she desired the divorce, he refused to give it. That, with her increasing insecurities about Vronksy's feelings for her seemed to put her into a downward spiral that she couldn't escape from.

I was quite annoyed with her dithering,"He loves me, he doesn't love me; he's going to leave me, he's going to stay," litanies. Tolstoy spent a lot of time inside Anna's mind with these back-and-forth thoughts. In many ways, she seemed to be going mad before she finally did herself in. The fact that her reason for doing so was to hurt Vronksy's feelings, rather than to release herself from the pain of the relationship, struck me as rather childish.

** Spoiler Over

Do I recommend it? Hard to say. My answer would depend on what your reasons are for reading it. Is it an enjoyable read? I don't believe it is. Nor is it easy. But it's interesting to read about Russian society at the time. From that perspective, or if you feel like you need to experience a bit of Russian Literature, I say, read on.

~ Kelly


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

This book is in my Top 100 Books reading challenge. I hope I get to it. I would read it so I can say I did, just like you. And to also know about Russian society. I haven't read any Russo-literature as of now.

Kelly A. Harmon said...

Hi Nana! I hadn't read any Russian lit until Anna Karenina, either. Although I can't say that I really enjoyed it, I'm glad I put in the effort. I'm actually considering War and Peace as a follow-up....perhaps for my second 100 books!

Good luck with your challenge!