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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, September 2016 - July 2016 - Something magical happens when a great performer narrates something he or she truly loves, as is the case with Maggie Gyllenhaal, who told us before recording that Anna Karenina is one of her all-time favorite novels. (It also happens to be a huge favorite of pretty much the entire world, being named the "greatest book ever written" in a recent poll of leading contemporary authors, as well as a personal favorite of Nabokov and Faulkner.) However, despite my love of the classics, I hadn't tackled this one until picking up Gyllenhaal's marvelous rendition, and now I can't imagine experiencing it any other way. She conveys the pulse-racing breathlessness of consuming love and the sighing breathiness of a bored aristocracy with equal precision, and she untangles Russian names that my reader's eye might have struggled to articulate. She takes great care with this great work, delivering one of the best performances I've ever heard. —Emily, Audible Editor
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Publisher's Summary

Winner: Audible's Best of 2016 - Classic
"Anna Karenina is one of my favorite books. But when I agreed to read it for Audible, I had no idea how much work it would be, how intense it would be, and how deeply I would fall in love with it. There were places where I thought 'if I don't give Alexey Alexandrovitch the respect that he deserves in my reading of this scene, a critical part of the book will be ruined. If I don't give EVERYONE the utmost respect and understanding, I'm not doing justice to this brilliantly compassionate book.' But at the same time, I also wanted to have a light touch in the way I played the different characters, so that the magnificence of the novel could shine through. I feel like performing this novel is one of the major accomplishments of my work life - it was so challenging and so deep, a real pleasure." (Narrator Maggie Gyllenhaal)
Leo Tolstoy's classic story of doomed love is one of the most admired novels in world literature. Generations of readers have been enthralled by his magnificent heroine, the unhappily married Anna Karenina, and her tragic affair with dashing Count Vronsky. Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight, The Honourable Woman) cites Tolstoy's epic as one of her favorite books of all time, and her love for the literature permeates her performance. Anna Karenina is a masterpiece not only because of the unforgettable woman at its core and the stark drama of her fate but also because it explores and illuminates the deepest questions about how to live a fulfilled life.
Public Domain (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By J. Stirling on 08-02-16

Not to be rushed but to be savored

This is not the dull endless drama I read in college. Maggie Gyllenhaal brings every word to life. Tolstoy in spite my youthful opinion many years ago, created characters that are exciting, brilliant, often frustrating, selfish, funny and in many ways just like our own family members. I didn't want it to be over and I know I will listen to this again. Right now I wish I could talk to other readers to share all the deep thoughts and feelings this book awakens.

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67 of 68 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Stevon on 01-16-17

excellent classic, the only way to describe it

First time author for me. If you are like me, every once in a while it's a good change of pace to take on a long classic. You have to be in the right frame of mind but something clicks about a story and you go for it. For me, in this instance, it was narrator Maggie Gyllenhaal the actress. And, she did a great job. But in researching the story while listening I learned that this being a classic, Audible has seven full length versions of this audiobook, all with different narrators. How do you know which one to listen to? There are even two Russian version, one Italian, one Spanish plus abridged versions. I guess this is what happens when a book is a true classic.

At times it seemed that the title of the book is a misnomer. Yes, the doomed love story of Anna is central to the story but there is much more to it. There is the farmer Levin who is questioning his faith the entire story, trying to decide if he's a Believer or Unbeliever. But it's also a time piece of Russian history. Tolstoy wrote this in the 1870's and writes about many facets of Russian life at the time. The Serfs of Russia, most of the people, had been freed from serfdom which was basically slavery. They were now called peasants and had to be paid a wage for their work. Under serfdom Russian agriculture had been a profitable venture for the elite of Russian but now with freedom productivity had gone down and profitability was out the window. The term communism was already being used so the coming revolution wasn't something that dropped onto Russia out of the sky. There was much discussion on the equitable distribution of all things for the good of the people. In many ways these issues still exist in current day Russia.

Tolstoy himself was born into the aristocracy of Russia. Since he touched on so many subjects you had to wonder if he wasn't one of those questioning the status quo. He apparently embraced religion and spirituality later in life and it seemed he may have been espousing his questions and views on the subject a he devotes quite a bit of the story to this topic.

All in all, this is a great classic. When the time is right take the challenge and good luck on deciding which narrator to listen to. I don't know that I have a second listening in me just to try out a second narrator. But it is interesting to see how different narrators can put a different perspective on a story.

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41 of 42 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By S. Perry on 04-22-17

A book for reading

After listening to a few books, I realise that there are books that a great to listen to and books that are better to read (another example of one not to listen to Mrs Dalloway) because the language is so dense. Ci think this is one of those. I struggled to remember who the different names belonged to, and to keep attention to the plot. Tolstoy is an accomplished writer for sure, but I was thinking get to the point.

I don't think Maggie Gyllenhaal was the right reader, I found her a little monotonous and failed to keep my attention.
There was a lot I enjoyed about the book, but I did feel that Anna Karenina needed to get a grip and lacked empathy for her as a character at times.

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20 of 20 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By L. russell on 07-30-16

a dissapointment

I was really hoping for a riveting listen after reading audibles hype of this performance by Maggie Gyllenhall.
I fancied listening to another classic after becoming bored with crime and thriller reads that all began to sound the same.
My last classic listen was The Woman in White which I thoroughly enjoyed and had high hopes for the praise given to Gyllenhalls interpretation of this classic novel.
I d love to say I made it past chapter 12 but for me it just turned into one long sentence. It was read but not with any gusto or giving any difference to the characters. I found it a woefully dull rendition and returned it.

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25 of 30 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Brookethechicken on 10-11-16

The best way to experience Anna Karenina

There's no denying that Anna Karenina is a masterpiece, but like all masterpieces, it can also be a hard read. It's long. There are lots of people with confusing names. There are parts about politics that drag on and you have no idea why you're still reading. And did I mention it's long?
Though this has been one of my favorite books for a long time, I'm so glad I decided to listen to the audio version as I think it clarifies some of the things that can be missed in the reading of it. The names for one thing become a lot clearer when you hear someone else say them correctly.
Maggie Gyllenhaal does an outstanding job of the reading and is able to portray the characters and the feeling of each scene in such a perfect way. Some might wonder at the ability to carry off so many male voices without them all blending into one or not seeming masculine enough but she both articulates the individuals and expresses the male characters wonderfully.
Whether you have previously read the book or it's a new work of fiction for you, I highly recommend listening to this version of Anna Karenina.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Jodie Baker on 09-29-16

Long but worth it

I'm not sure I would have ever picked up Tolstoy in another format, but the performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal (particularly when she finds her rhythm a few chapters into the book) make this story not just digestible but utterly delightful. Unquestionably Tolstoy was a master of human insight, and his articulation of such diverse characters and their struggles ensure his observations transcend both time and culture.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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