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In honor of the Olympics in Russia, I'm re-reading Anna Karenina

(21 Posts)
MsAmerica Wed 19-Feb-14 01:34:25

Do you agree with the opinion held by many that it's possibly the greatest novel of all time? This is my third time reading it, and I've never liked it particularly. I still don't like it, but I finally "get" it somewhat. But I can't view it as one of the greatest novels ever. I admire the breadth and the descriptions of the states of mind, but most of it doesn't seem that gripping, and none of the women are convincing to me.

mimbleandlittlemy Wed 19-Feb-14 10:45:07

No, I'm with you and can safely say I don't agree with the opinion that it's the greatest novel of all time. I think it's a very well written book about a woman trapped by her time and her social mores and there are some stonking good scenes in it (the horse race still lives with me years since I read it) but there are books I think better. Les Miserables for example, or Bleak House.

Which reminds me, I must read some Dostoyevsky.

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Wed 19-Feb-14 17:03:44

I like it better than War and Peace, and it is extremely good, but I don't think any novel can be considered the best of all time, it's too subjective.

CoteDAzur Wed 19-Feb-14 22:31:38

I read it recently for the first time. It might be one of the greatest novels of all time - not only because it is very well-written but also because it tackles with skill pretty much all of the main concerns of humanity: love (between man-woman and parent-child), honour, money, class, social position, politics and economy, etc.

It is not just a love story. And it certainly isn't just "about a woman trapped by her time and her social mores". In fact, it is clear in the book that Kostya Levin and Kitty are the real protagonists, the admirable couple who know what real love is and who earn their good fortune with their hard work.

When we talked about it in book club, it was interesting to see that friends who read it as teenagers all thought it was about poor Anna who was trapped by her time and social mores, and it seemed like those like me who just read it were talking about an entirely different book.

buffythebarbieslayer Fri 21-Feb-14 21:23:04

A lot of it is about Levin finding happiness and contentment through his love of the land.

There is a similar theme in War & Peace, with Pierre, that an excess of luxury reduces our ability to really live.

I particularly love the scene where Dolly visits Anna. Initially she is jealous of her supposed freedom and glamorous life. She herself feels ravaged by motherhood. But she soon realises that she cherishes her own life and there is a darker side to Anna's.

ratqueen Sat 22-Feb-14 06:38:24

I am on ch10 of my first read and have been interested that it has mostly been about men so far!

LIttleMissTickles Sat 22-Feb-14 06:55:36

I loved War and Peace, but really battled my way through Anna K. You couldn't entice me to read it again.

carlajean Sat 22-Feb-14 07:41:46

Funnily enough, i'm rereading at the moment. While not being the greatest novel (what is?), I feel it's one of the best, for the sheer scope of what it covers, and Tolstoy's wisdom about relationships. My only problem with it is that i'm an impatient reader, and often skip the philosophy to get to the next piece of action.
What I've been wondering is how far away the Russian Revolution is away from the action in the book. Would it have affected the protagonists, or their children?
(I also love the Kiara Knightley film, by the way)

Trooperslane Sat 22-Feb-14 07:44:38

It's a great novel for sure but she's a total pain in the arse. I want to shake her. confused

CoteDAzur Sat 22-Feb-14 08:12:45

carla - AK was written in 1870s and Russian Revolution happened in 1917. You won't see it in the book.

Try not to skip the "philosophical" parts. They are the reason why AK is still read and admired.

carlajean Sat 22-Feb-14 08:28:51

cote thanks for that. I thought it didn't appear in the book, but the events leading up to it are evident, aren't they, and (outside the scope of the book, I know) the revolution would have probably occurred while they were still alive. It feels ironic (to me) that characters such as Levin and Karennin were aiming to find a way of making their society work more equitably, and the Revolution was just round the corner and would sweep all of their work, good and bad, away, and I wonder how all of the characters would have survived that.
I'm reading AK after a biography of Nicholas and Alexandra, by the way, so perhaps that's influenced my thoughts.

balancingfigure Sat 22-Feb-14 08:41:53

I tried to read AK several years ago and didn't manage to finish it (which is quite unusual for me) but inspired by this thread I think I must give it another go.

Will hunt for the boo k right now, or maybe put on my kindle!

AnneWentworth Sat 22-Feb-14 15:59:51

I have read it a couple of times, I do struggle with it but have always felt like it was worth it afterwards. Karenin is an example of the new bureaucrats emerging in Russia at the time. I am due a reread.

AnneWentworth Sat 22-Feb-14 16:01:17

Although if you were just reading Russian because the Olympics are in Russia then let me tell everyone on this thread to read 'The Foundation Pit' by Andrey Platanov. I am telling anyone who will listen.

carlajean Sat 22-Feb-14 16:11:36

Ok I will

MsAmerica Wed 26-Feb-14 23:25:45

Thanks, CoteDAzur, that was more how it struck me this time, that so little is really about Anna, leaving me wondering about the choice of title. I do admire the breadth, like CarlaJean (and I also have an awful tendency to skim over the philosophical bits, although this time I tried not to), and I like the accurate way it depicts how our thoughts flit around in ways that aren't outwardly apparent. I was also interested that you can see that even it those days, there were hints of the issues that would later trigger the revolution.
But what persistently bothered me was the way Anna was depicted, eventually essentially as a madwoman, and although you could blame it on the society, that seems like the easy way out. It always brings me back to wondering what these rich women did all day long. Also, even with the writing, I admire some of it, but it always seems so removed, or aloof. In contrast, there are always passages of Dickens that are so powerful or so moving that I could re-read them forever.
Anyway, I'm glad I tackled it again. And, CarlaJean, are you reading the Robert Massie biography of Nicholas and Alexandra? It's so sad when one of the few genuinely good royal marriages ends tragically.

carlajean Thu 27-Feb-14 07:35:49

Yes, it was the Massive. I found it fascinating. You see, I think Anna's depiction felt accurate. What is so well done is how, by the end, her brother is equally ruined. From my reading, he is separated from his family (family was so important to Tolstoy) living a life that he realizes is superficial and wrong.

carlajean Thu 27-Feb-14 08:29:22

Massive? Massie

nutcasenan Tue 04-Mar-14 01:04:50

When Tolstoy writes he puts himself into his characters, All Pierre Basoukovs feelings of guilt for his rakish way of life in War and Peace, his love of farming all are repeated in Levins character. However Tolstoy gives his own wife a voice through Dolly. Anna is an unattractive, selfish article. I always felt sorry for her husband. War and Peace has the most substance and Tolstoy, himself had had enough of Anna by the time he had finished it. You can't rush Tolstoy. Should be taken in slowly to allow for an immersion into that wonderful Russian world of old.

HarpyFishwifeTwat Tue 04-Mar-14 20:40:28

I've just spent three weeks reading it. It was so well-written and had such immense scope but God I struggled with it. I felt so sorry for Anna's husband and was desperate for him to have a happy ending - I didn't really care anything for Anna and Vronsky. Kitty and Levin's story was much more interesting.

funnyossity Tue 04-Mar-14 20:46:26

I love War and Peace but only skimmed Anna K many years ago. Thanks for the prompt to try it again.

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