I hated this book. I just thought I would come out and say it so that we can get all the awkwardness between us out of the way. I know, it’s a classic. I know, everyone loves it. I know, Tolstoy is a genius. Except for the fact that I suffered through this chunk of a book and finished it without feeling justified. I honestly think that part of the reason why people love it so much is because they are so relieved at finishing. Yeah, I said it. People have been asking me to read this for years. My reading challenge presented the perfect opportunity for me to stop re-reading Wuthering Heights and put a new classic in my arsenal.
Anna Karenina deals with almost every issue you can think of: love, marriage, adultery, faith, family, death, social class, gender issues, the list goes on. In my opinion, Anna isn’t even the main character. This novel should have been called “Anna Karenina (and Levin)”. I will say that the third person narrative makes the story easier to get through as it jumps from storyline to storyline. There are large chunks of non-verbal communication which give you insight into each character. I absolutely hate it when the characters are two-dimensional. Tolstoy swiftly avoids this as all his characters are incredibly complex and most of them go through some sort of character development. When you pick up Anna Karenina, it can be intimidating only because it is so dense.
By now I am sure that you think I’m heartless. You’re plotting my murder, aren’t you?
I do have sympathy for Anna. She was socially ostracised for doing something that countless men were doing around her. Through her internal monologues, I could see that she was clearly in pain and trusted in her jealous notions. That being said, I don’t find anything romantic in her abandonment of Seryozha. Isn’t part of parenting making sacrifices? I found Anna to be superficial, selfish and vindictive (okay, I can see you standing there with your pitchfork. I’ll move on). To be fair, I thought the same thing about Stephan. This book could have also easily been titled, “Look at Aristocracy mulling around leaving destruction in their path” (clearly Tolstoy should’ve asked me to help him name his novels)
I felt incredibly accomplished after finishing this book, especially since I didn’t find anything enjoyable about it. The fact that I had so much to say should show that this book will get you thinking. I can’t vouch for what kind of feelings it might evoke in you though.