Monday, February 21, 2011

Anna Karenina ~ Leo Tolstoy

My dear friends, I've done it.  After more than six weeks, I have slain the monster.  Anna Karenina is no more...  I mean, Anna Karenina is no more (bwahaha, italics humor).  For those of you who missed my half-way through ramblings, here they are.  For the rest of you, read on...

I only don't know how I feel about this book.  There were so many elements that annoyed me - the excessive repetition, the wordiness, the way Tolstoy spells things out for his reader, the absolute lack of any sort of suspense, the use of direct discourse, the inability of the omniscient narrator to ever be anything but omniscient, the horrifically chauvinistic view of women, the long rambles about a huge variety of topics that I have no background or interest it, the fact that I couldn't follow the timeline, etc. - but I just don't know.  I can't bring myself to say I don't like it.  Is that because I subconsciously fear being snubbed in the blog world?  Maybe, but I doubt it, particularly after so many people agreed with me about Emma.  The thing is, Anna Karenina also has a lot of elements that I love - it's loooong (I love series), you really get to know the characters (though I didn't like a single one), the fact that I really got a sense of a lifestyle different from my own.  Suffice it to say, in a decidedly unTolstoyan manner, that I'm torn.

I'm not going to ramble on and on about this like I am wont to do.  I think that what I really need is to reread this at some point in the semi-distant future.  Perhaps reading it as part of a read-along would help so that I could compare notes with others... what do you all think?  If I hosted an Anna Karenina read-along next year, is that something you would be interested in?

I'd love to know your thoughts on the book!  Maybe other perspectives will help me figure out my own.

Oh, one more thing before I go: I am a woman and I have more on my mind than men and babies.  Tolstoy, I hope you're taking notes.

Anna Karenina counts towards the TBR challenge, my only challenge I've actually managed to make headway on this year.  Woot!


  1. Congrats on finishing it! It's been about four years since I read it so I'm not sure anymore what I loved about it, but I think you're right that guidance helps. I read it alone, but the reason I read it was that I was reading Nabokov's "Lectures on Literature" and one of the pieces is on Anna K. Reading that one lecture gave me just enough grounding that I fell in love with the book. I'm not a crier, but there were points (like when what's-her-face and what's-his-face are playing that game where they give just the first letter of each word in a sentence, and they're spelling out that they love each other and they BOTH TOTALLY GET WHAT THE OTHER IS TRYING TO SPELL) when I couldn't stop myself, and I would have trudged right through them if not for Nabokov's guidance.

    He was also pretty helpful with the timeline, which as you mention is hard to keep track of. Nabokov marked out the timeline for the whole novel and found that different characters travel at different speeds through time, so even when they are ostensibly at the same point in time...they're not. I'm pretty sure Nabokov does a better job explaining this than I do.

    -- ellen

    p.s. if i'm back in the states next year, with my copy of anna k., i'd love to do a read-a-long.

  2. You have to keep in mind the time period that this particular piece was written- it's very much social commentary. Tolstoy, like many men of his time did not believe that women held the same capacity, but I believe that Tolstoy certainly held them in greater esteem. Anna is certainly defying social conventions with her overly visible care for Vronsky. I feel that Anna Karenina is essentially an extension of Tolstoy himself, with Levin, being somewhat autobiographical. His love and disdain for the female counterpart, but also his compassion for the serfs that work his land. Anna, herself, is a bit much. She's a real brat, actually. I think that Tolstoy is trying to capture the changing landscape in Russia in different perspectives, and, at times can be overwhelming and tedious. There were moments where the reader is lost in Levin's thoughts that I felt I could have just skipped entirely. All in all, everyone's entitled to their own opinion. I love Anna Karenina, and would certainly be willing to participate in a Read-Along if it was presented in the future! So glad you conquered such a door stopper- it took me about a month and was glad to step away and BREATH!

  3. "Oh, one more thing before I go: I am a woman and I have more on my mind than men and babies. "

    ...that's not italics humor.

    In all seriousness, I'm just impressed you finished that monster of a book. It makes textbooks look like Encyclopedia Brown.