Title: Anna Karenina
Author: Leo Tolstoy
In their world frivolous liaisons are commonplace, but Anna and Vronsky’s consuming passion makes them a target for scorn and leads to Anna’s increasing isolation. The heartbreaking trajectory of their relationship contrasts sharply with the colorful swirl of friends and family members who surround them, especially the newlyweds Kitty and Levin, who forge a touching bond as they struggle to make a life together.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 (from Goodreads).
Thoughts: Anna Karenina tells the story of, you guessed it, Anna Karenina, a rich woman of some means who is married to Count Alexey Alexandrovitch, and love affair with Count Vronsky, and the upheval it and other events cause among thier families and friends, including Anna’s brother, Prince Stepan, and his wife, Dolly, Dolly’s younger sister, Kitty, and Stepan’s old friend, Levin.
Whew, am I glad this one is over! I cannot believe that it took me so long to finish this book- I started it in January! January! Part of this was for reasons that had nothing to do with the book itself; it’s so long that I didn’t want to read just this book so I read others and would get distracted. I originally tried reading a part or two a month but between packing and moving it really fell by the wayside these past six months. Some part of my trouble was from the translation that I have; my copy is from the early 30’s (it’s literally falling apart thanks to my one year old nephew!) and the translation is less than stellar. There was a couple of times that no matter how many times I read a sentence I could not understand what they were trying to say– it just didn’t make any sense!
I also had some trouble with the names; partly this was because I took such long gaps in between reading and partly because each character is known by two name, usually long ones, that I had trouble keeping straight. I think a character list at the beginning would have helped. Also, I don’t know if it was just awkward translating on my edition’s part, but I couldn’t help but notice that each character’s full name was repeated more often than it needed to be. ‘Alexey Alexandrovitch said this with a grin, Alexy Alexandrovitch sat down, and Alexy Alexandrovitch turned his head to the next speaker’ (I made that up- it’s not an actual quote). It just wasn’t necessary and it became really really annoying. The other major bone I have to pick with my edition is that when the characters are quoted speaking French and German (which was ALL THE TIME) there was no translation. I DON’T SPEAK FRENCH OR GERMAN. I SPEAK ENGLISH, I AM READING AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION! GAH! I had no idea what they were saying and I know I missed things which was extremely frustrating.
As regards to the writing, Tolstoy’s is good and the chapters are short which makes it really easy to pick up the book, but I wasn’t drawn to the plot in a way that made me want to keep reading; I had to make an effort and all to often I ended up not picking it up in favor of another book. There were some beautiful quotes (which I think I am going to list at the end of this post because I want to remember them) but they were few and far between. Overall, I am not sure what to think about this book; I’m glad that I read it but I am also glad that I am done with it and don’t have to read it anymore or have it staring at me when I abandon it for something more shiny. I’m not sure how much I disliked it because of the book itself and how much was the cause of my less than perfect edition. I feel like at some point I need to get a more modern edition/translation and reread it as I think I will get more out of it but right now that just doesn’t sound appealing in the slightest. I don’t know, I think I might wait a year or two before giving this one another shot. I feel bad that I don’t really have much to say about this book; right now my thoughts are along the lines of: ‘I read it, I’m done, let’s move on.’ Maybe this is one of those books that I need some time to process.
Anyway, I’m not sure what else to say so here are some of the quotes that I liked and made note of:
There’s less charm in life when one thinks of death, but there’s more peace- pg. 507
Levin felt himself to blame, and could not set things right. He felt that if they had both not kept up appearances, but had spoken, as it is called, from the heart- that is to say, had said only just what they were thinking and feeling- they would simply have looked into each other’s faces, and Konstantin could only have said “You’re dying, you’re dying!” and Nikolay could only have answered, “I know I’m dying, but I’m afraid, I’m afraid, I’m afraid!”- pg. 473
“What’s the matter with you?” Shtcherbatsky asked him.
“Oh, nothing; there’s not much happiness in life.”
“Not much? You come with me to Paris instead of to Mulhausen. You shall see how to be happy.”
“No, I’ve done with it all. It’s time I was dead.”
“Well, that’s a good one!” said Shtcherbatsky, laughing, “why, I’m only just getting ready to begin.”
“Yes, I thought the same not long ago, but now I know I shall soon be dead.”- pg. 476