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This was the first Tolstoy I have ever read, and I enjoyed this book very much. I did not realize, going in, that this was the dual story of Anna Karenina’s adulterous affair with Count Vronsky, but of Constantine Levin’s journey to love and spiritual life. One person descends morally, the other ascends, their lives, thoughts and personalities masterfully woven and layered by Tolstoy into one of the best books I have ever read!
I was primarily motivated to finally read the book because the movie was coming out and I wanted to experience the book before I saw the movie. After reading the book and seeing the movie poster centered on Anna alone, with her husband and lover in the background on either side, the focus will probably center on Anna exclusively. Hollywood seems to resemble the loose Petersburg circles that Anna moved in, which takes innocence and spits out broken souls like Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan. It would not surprise me that the focus of the movie would be on Anna’s passion, condemning the society that caged her, marginalizing the progress of Levin from awkward and angry, an intellectual misfit who envies the simplicity of peasants, to love, marriage, fatherhood and ultimately a true spiritual awakening. I may be wrong. I hope I am wrong.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
I wish I could say I liked any of these characters. It would make it so much easier to give a heartfelt endorsement to this book. It is without question a great book. Tolstoy has learned a lot in the 8 years since he wrote War and Peace. Instead of shifting back and forth between the story and historical analysis, he has figured out how to integrate everything into the story. Not only does the historical exposition fit naturally into the dialog between the characters, but his observations of the characters and their feelings is spot on perfect. And by cluing us in to their feelings, we understand why they react in a particular way to the next person they encounter, and how those internal processes contribute to hampering and undermining the oral communication we all depend upon.
This was a hard book to listen to because I kept wanting to stop and consider all the ideas Tolstoy introduced. I suppose the key question for the reader is to decide what you think this book is about. I don't think it's about Anna Karenina anymore than War and Peace is about war and peace. I think Tolstoy's central concern is about how to live one's life, and how to satisfy one's soul. From that perspective, Anna serves as an example of how seemingly justifiable choices lead inexorably to disaster. Levin is more truly the protagonist of the book. Everyone else is illustrating to one degree or another the thesis Tolstoy is exploring.
I picked this version of the book because I like Wanda McCaddon as a narrator. I suppose I should have given more thought to which translation I wanted to hear. This one (as best I can determine) is the one by Louise and Aylmer Maude. Both Maude's and Bennett's translations have served generations of Tolstoy readers, but I guess those of us who haven't learned Russian will have to wait awhile to hear a more updated translation.
One thing that really surprised me is that Karenin, for all his faults, is hardly the monster he is generally regarded to be. In fact, it is impossible to point to a true villain in this book. Nearly every character in inwardly pursuing what he or she believes to be a good end, even if they are misguided in one way or another.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful