Anna Karenina (Signet Classics)

Anna Karenina (Signet Classics)

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Overview

Leo Tolstoy's evocative tale of doomed love—one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century.

Upon it's publication, Anna Karenina startled the world with its powerful portrayal of the human need for love and happiness weighed against the rigid demands of society. Its heroine, the sensual, rebellious Anna, renounces a respectable yet stifling marriage for an extramarital affair that offers a taste of passion even as it ensnares her in a trap for destruction. Her story contrasts with that of Levin, a young, self-doubting agnostic who takes a different path to fulfillment and finds faith and happiness in an age of repression.
 
Anna Karenina has been called Tolstoy’s spiritual autobiography. Anna and Levin personify his lifelong struggle to reconcile his physical desires and intellectual ideals in order to lead a more meaningful existence. 

Translated by David Magarshack
Includes an Introduction by Priscilla Meyer 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451528612
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/28/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 960
Sales rank: 248,386
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.88(h) x 1.43(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Count Leo Tolstoy was born on September 9, 1828, in Yasnaya Polyana, Russia.  Orphaned at nine, he was brought up by an elderly aunt and educated by French tutors until he matriculated at Kazan University in 1844. In 1847, he gave up his studies and, after several aimless years, volunteered for military duty in the army, serving as a junior officer in the Crimean War before retiring in 1857. His diary, started in 1847, was used for self-study and self-criticism; it served as the source from which he drew much of the material that appeared not only in his great novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), but also in his shorter works. Seeking religious justification for his life, Tolstoy evolved a new Christianity based upon his own interpretation of the Gospels. Yasnaya Polyana became a Mecca for his many converts.  At the age of eighty-two, while away from home, the writer suffered a breakdown in his health in Astapovo, Riazan, and he died there on November 20, 1910.

Date of Birth:

September 9, 1828

Date of Death:

November 20, 1910

Place of Birth:

Tula Province, Russia

Place of Death:

Astapovo, Russia

Education:

Privately educated by French and German tutors; attended the University of Kazan, 1844-47

Read an Excerpt

ANNA KARENINA
by Leo Tolstoy

 

INTRODUCTION

A handful of novels—such as Dickens's Bleak House or Joyce's Ulysses—cause us to feel upon closing them that the world we are returning to is somehow smaller than the one we have just left. Anna Karenina belongs to this group. One measure of its breadth is the enormous range of life experience Tolstoy depicts. Another measure is its attention to so many contemporary issues of nineteenth-century Russia. These immediately apparent features account for the length of Anna Karenina, but a more subtle feature gives the novel its capacious quality. Because it is so rich in incident, and because the psychologies of its main characters are so nuanced as to endow each with a fully formed view of the world, all that happens in Anna Karenina happens, in a sense, without adequate explanation, as in real life. When he is about to confront Anna about her relationship with Vronsky, Alexei Alexandrovich hesitates, feeling that he stands "face to face with something illogical and senseless," with "life [itself]" (p. 142). If the novel strikes us similarly, it is not because Tolstoy does not suggest or even state causes for the novel's events. Rather, the causes do not constitute an explanation, and the ultimately incompatible perspectives of the characters only intensify the mysteries with which the novel leaves us.

The first sentence of Anna Karenina is one of the best-known openings of any novel: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Such a pronouncement, with the appearance of thoughtfully dispensed wisdom, holds the promise of a narrator who will illuminate all that follows. But this statement can be more accurately described as an observation, rather than an explanation or an interpretation. As the novel progresses, this distinction becomes increasingly evident. When contemplating his unhappiness, Vronsky thinks that he has erred in his belief that the realization of his desires would make him happy. Tolstoy does not tell us what would make Vronsky or anyone else happy, and the absence is both conspicuous and emblematic of the way Tolstoy frames issues without directing us to a specific understanding of them. He tells us how Vronsky arrives at this thought, but, as to the question of what happiness is, we get nothing but vague implication.

The question of happiness, however, is clearly central to the novel. One may suppose that the portrayal of varying degrees of happiness informs Tolstoy's decision to structure the novel so that Anna and Vronsky's relationship and Levin and Kitty's marriage run parallel to one another. But words like happy and unhappy lose their descriptive power when we consider that "happy in his family life, a healthy man, Levin was several times so close to suicide that he hid a rope lest he hang himself with it, and was afraid to go about with a rifle lest he shoot himself" (p. 789). The spiritual crisis that pushes Levin to this point seems far removed from all that Anna faces. Her extreme isolation from everyone except Vronsky—whom she fears she is on the brink of losing—helps propel her toward suicide. The fact that Levin finally arrives at a formulation of the meaning of his life that he finds acceptable keeps him from sharing Anna's fate, yet he chooses to keep this revelation a secret from Kitty. Does this gesture indicate a kind of solitude from which Levin and Anna both suffer?

More than anything else in Anna Karenina, Anna's suicide casts a shadow over the entire novel because it both invites and ultimately escapes interpretation. To the society that scorns her for her affair, her death is due punishment. Anna's plea for forgiveness "for everything" just before she dies suggests her own sense of guilt—though it does not adhere to some specific act—and perhaps a belief that justice is at hand. Yet a moment earlier "she was horrified at what she was doing" (p. 768). Does she understand what brings her to this end? The temptation to consider it any sort of commentary on adultery is complicated by Stiva and Dolly. Adultery seems almost becoming to Stiva, and he engages in it with impunity. Dolly tolerates Stiva's wandering without approving of it, yet she sympathizes with Anna, even imagining the pleasure she would take from a similar affair. If Levin is the novel's moral center, he nevertheless fails to tip the balance toward any single interpretation of Anna's fate. He not only allows Anna her mysteriousness; it even seems to overwhelm his capacity for judgment.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. How are we to understand the epigram "Vengeance is mine, I will repay"? Should Anna's fate be considered the result of God's vengeance? Is Anna's desire to take vengeance on Vronsky being condemned?
     
  2. When Vronsky first meets Anna, "it was as if a surplus of something so overflowed her being that it expressed itself beyond her will..." (p. 61). What is this something? Why is it expressed beyond her will?
     
  3. Why is Anna able to reconcile Stiva and Dolly?
     
  4. We are told that it is unpleasant for Anna to read about other people's lives because she "wanted too much to live herself" (p. 100). Why are reading and living placed in opposition to one another?
     
  5. When Anna and Vronsky have satisfied their desire for one another, why does Tolstoy compare Vronsky to a murderer?
     
  6. After telling her husband about her affair, why does Anna feel that "everything was beginning to go double in her soul" (p. 288)?
     
  7. Why does Tolstoy counterpose Levin and Kitty's marriage with Anna and Vronsky's relationship?
     
  8. Why does Levin continually imagine his future in such detail, only to have his actual experience differ from what he had expected?
     
  9. What keeps Dolly from having an affair like Anna's, even though she imagines one "parallel to it, an almost identical love affair of her own" (p. 609)?
     
  10. While explaining her affair to Dolly, Anna says, "I simply want to live; to cause no evil to anyone but myself" (p. 616). Does the novel present these two objectives as compatible or incompatible?
     
  11. Why, as she later admits to herself, did Anna want Levin to fall in love with her when she met him?
     
  12. Why does Anna kill herself? Why does everyone and everything seem so ugly to Anna just before she does so?
     
  13. Is it Anna herself or the society in which she lives that is more responsible for her unhappiness?
     
  14. Why are the consequences of Stiva's adultery so insignificant relative to those Anna faces?
     
  15. Why does Vronsky go to war as a volunteer after Anna's suicide?
     
  16. Of all the novel's characters, why is it only Anna and Levin who contemplate suicide?
     
  17. Why does Levin believe that he must keep the revelation in which he comes to understand faith a secret from Kitty?
     
  18. Why does Tolstoy end the novel with Levin's musings about the nature of faith and his embrace of morally justifiable actions as the basis for the meaning of life?

For Further Reflection

  1. What should we take into account when trying to balance responsibility to ourselves with responsibility to others?
     
  2. To what extent does a society determine which of our individual desires can be satisfied?

 

ABOUT LEO TOLSTOY

Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 on his aristocratic family's estate south of Moscow. A young life of what he called "vulgar licentiousness" included studying for a degree he did not complete, traveling in Europe, and serving in the military. While fighting in the Crimean War in the 1850s, he wrote short stories that established his literary reputation. Tolstoy inherited his family's estate, Yasnaya Polyana, along with 700 serfs, and settled there. In addition to his writing, Tolstoy immersed himself in the work of social reform, establishing a school for his serfs and trying to bring about the emancipation of all serfs.

Tolstoy married Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862, beginning a long period of contentment; they had thirteen children. While managing his estate and educational projects, Tolstoy wrote his two greatest novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). In the late 1870s, he suffered a deep spiritual crisis and renounced his former beliefs and literary works. He embraced a rational Christianity that stressed humility, universal brotherhood, and the abandonment of private property. He tried to commit himself to chastity and vegetarianism.

A Confession (1882) described this change in Tolstoy's life and writing. Increasingly troubled by the disparities between the life with his family and the beliefs he espoused, Tolstoy secretly left home in 1910, hoping to find a peaceful refuge. He died several days later at a remote railway station.

Related Titles

Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)
Once Edna Pontellier discovers within herself the desires suppressed by marriage and motherhood, the world that so tightly restricts her freedom proves uninhabitable.

George Eliot, Middlemarch (1872)
Although it treats two relationships in detail, this expansive narrative is an intricately constructed portrait of the entire social strata of provincial England in the 1830s.

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1857)
Inspired by the romance she encounters in popular fiction, the doomed heroine of this stylistic milestone dreams of escaping the confines of her dull, bourgeois married life.

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891)
An indictment of Victorian social convention, this deeply tragic novel presents a virtuous woman destroyed by two men and the impersonal forces against which even the strongest individual is powerless.

Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (1920)
Newland Archer attempts to negotiate the conflict between a passion that defies the social order and a safe love that leaves him spiritually unfulfilled.

Reading Group Guide

ANNA KARENINA
by Leo Tolstoy

 

INTRODUCTION

A handful of novels—such as Dickens's Bleak House or Joyce's Ulysses—cause us to feel upon closing them that the world we are returning to is somehow smaller than the one we have just left. Anna Karenina belongs to this group. One measure of its breadth is the enormous range of life experience Tolstoy depicts. Another measure is its attention to so many contemporary issues of nineteenth-century Russia. These immediately apparent features account for the length of Anna Karenina, but a more subtle feature gives the novel its capacious quality. Because it is so rich in incident, and because the psychologies of its main characters are so nuanced as to endow each with a fully formed view of the world, all that happens in Anna Karenina happens, in a sense, without adequate explanation, as in real life. When he is about to confront Anna about her relationship with Vronsky, Alexei Alexandrovich hesitates, feeling that he stands "face to face with something illogical and senseless," with "life [itself]" (p. 142). If the novel strikes us similarly, it is not because Tolstoy does not suggest or even state causes for the novel's events. Rather, the causes do not constitute an explanation, and the ultimately incompatible perspectives of the characters only intensify the mysteries with which the novel leaves us.

The first sentence of Anna Karenina is one of the best-known openings of any novel: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Such a pronouncement, with the appearance of thoughtfully dispensed wisdom, holds the promise of a narrator who will illuminate all that follows. But this statement can be more accurately described as an observation, rather than an explanation or an interpretation. As the novel progresses, this distinction becomes increasingly evident. When contemplating his unhappiness, Vronsky thinks that he has erred in his belief that the realization of his desires would make him happy. Tolstoy does not tell us what would make Vronsky or anyone else happy, and the absence is both conspicuous and emblematic of the way Tolstoy frames issues without directing us to a specific understanding of them. He tells us how Vronsky arrives at this thought, but, as to the question of what happiness is, we get nothing but vague implication.

The question of happiness, however, is clearly central to the novel. One may suppose that the portrayal of varying degrees of happiness informs Tolstoy's decision to structure the novel so that Anna and Vronsky's relationship and Levin and Kitty's marriage run parallel to one another. But words like happy and unhappy lose their descriptive power when we consider that "happy in his family life, a healthy man, Levin was several times so close to suicide that he hid a rope lest he hang himself with it, and was afraid to go about with a rifle lest he shoot himself" (p. 789). The spiritual crisis that pushes Levin to this point seems far removed from all that Anna faces. Her extreme isolation from everyone except Vronsky—whom she fears she is on the brink of losing—helps propel her toward suicide. The fact that Levin finally arrives at a formulation of the meaning of his life that he finds acceptable keeps him from sharing Anna's fate, yet he chooses to keep this revelation a secret from Kitty. Does this gesture indicate a kind of solitude from which Levin and Anna both suffer?

More than anything else in Anna Karenina, Anna's suicide casts a shadow over the entire novel because it both invites and ultimately escapes interpretation. To the society that scorns her for her affair, her death is due punishment. Anna's plea for forgiveness "for everything" just before she dies suggests her own sense of guilt—though it does not adhere to some specific act—and perhaps a belief that justice is at hand. Yet a moment earlier "she was horrified at what she was doing" (p. 768). Does she understand what brings her to this end? The temptation to consider it any sort of commentary on adultery is complicated by Stiva and Dolly. Adultery seems almost becoming to Stiva, and he engages in it with impunity. Dolly tolerates Stiva's wandering without approving of it, yet she sympathizes with Anna, even imagining the pleasure she would take from a similar affair. If Levin is the novel's moral center, he nevertheless fails to tip the balance toward any single interpretation of Anna's fate. He not only allows Anna her mysteriousness; it even seems to overwhelm his capacity for judgment.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. How are we to understand the epigram "Vengeance is mine, I will repay"? Should Anna's fate be considered the result of God's vengeance? Is Anna's desire to take vengeance on Vronsky being condemned?
     
  2. When Vronsky first meets Anna, "it was as if a surplus of something so overflowed her being that it expressed itself beyond her will..." (p. 61). What is this something? Why is it expressed beyond her will?
     
  3. Why is Anna able to reconcile Stiva and Dolly?
     
  4. We are told that it is unpleasant for Anna to read about other people's lives because she "wanted too much to live herself" (p. 100). Why are reading and living placed in opposition to one another?
     
  5. When Anna and Vronsky have satisfied their desire for one another, why does Tolstoy compare Vronsky to a murderer?
     
  6. After telling her husband about her affair, why does Anna feel that "everything was beginning to go double in her soul" (p. 288)?
     
  7. Why does Tolstoy counterpose Levin and Kitty's marriage with Anna and Vronsky's relationship?
     
  8. Why does Levin continually imagine his future in such detail, only to have his actual experience differ from what he had expected?
     
  9. What keeps Dolly from having an affair like Anna's, even though she imagines one "parallel to it, an almost identical love affair of her own" (p. 609)?
     
  10. While explaining her affair to Dolly, Anna says, "I simply want to live; to cause no evil to anyone but myself" (p. 616). Does the novel present these two objectives as compatible or incompatible?
     
  11. Why, as she later admits to herself, did Anna want Levin to fall in love with her when she met him?
     
  12. Why does Anna kill herself? Why does everyone and everything seem so ugly to Anna just before she does so?
     
  13. Is it Anna herself or the society in which she lives that is more responsible for her unhappiness?
     
  14. Why are the consequences of Stiva's adultery so insignificant relative to those Anna faces?
     
  15. Why does Vronsky go to war as a volunteer after Anna's suicide?
     
  16. Of all the novel's characters, why is it only Anna and Levin who contemplate suicide?
     
  17. Why does Levin believe that he must keep the revelation in which he comes to understand faith a secret from Kitty?
     
  18. Why does Tolstoy end the novel with Levin's musings about the nature of faith and his embrace of morally justifiable actions as the basis for the meaning of life?

For Further Reflection

  1. What should we take into account when trying to balance responsibility to ourselves with responsibility to others?
     
  2. To what extent does a society determine which of our individual desires can be satisfied?

 

ABOUT LEO TOLSTOY

Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 on his aristocratic family's estate south of Moscow. A young life of what he called "vulgar licentiousness" included studying for a degree he did not complete, traveling in Europe, and serving in the military. While fighting in the Crimean War in the 1850s, he wrote short stories that established his literary reputation. Tolstoy inherited his family's estate, Yasnaya Polyana, along with 700 serfs, and settled there. In addition to his writing, Tolstoy immersed himself in the work of social reform, establishing a school for his serfs and trying to bring about the emancipation of all serfs.

Tolstoy married Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862, beginning a long period of contentment; they had thirteen children. While managing his estate and educational projects, Tolstoy wrote his two greatest novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). In the late 1870s, he suffered a deep spiritual crisis and renounced his former beliefs and literary works. He embraced a rational Christianity that stressed humility, universal brotherhood, and the abandonment of private property. He tried to commit himself to chastity and vegetarianism.

A Confession (1882) described this change in Tolstoy's life and writing. Increasingly troubled by the disparities between the life with his family and the beliefs he espoused, Tolstoy secretly left home in 1910, hoping to find a peaceful refuge. He died several days later at a remote railway station.

Related Titles

Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)
Once Edna Pontellier discovers within herself the desires suppressed by marriage and motherhood, the world that so tightly restricts her freedom proves uninhabitable.

George Eliot, Middlemarch (1872)
Although it treats two relationships in detail, this expansive narrative is an intricately constructed portrait of the entire social strata of provincial England in the 1830s.

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1857)
Inspired by the romance she encounters in popular fiction, the doomed heroine of this stylistic milestone dreams of escaping the confines of her dull, bourgeois married life.

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891)
An indictment of Victorian social convention, this deeply tragic novel presents a virtuous woman destroyed by two men and the impersonal forces against which even the strongest individual is powerless.

Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (1920)
Newland Archer attempts to negotiate the conflict between a passion that defies the social order and a safe love that leaves him spiritually unfulfilled.

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Anna Karenina Signet Classics 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This remarkable story by one of the few mega-novelists of all times is an ageless story that is more real than fiction. I decided to read a copy of this book on my way to vacation last the summer and ended up spending most of my first week being glued to the book. Though it is a Russian story of a century and a half ago, its essence still resonates today.
BookLuver345 More than 1 year ago
Wow! I haven't read such a thrilling book in a long time! Anna karinina is one of the best novels I have ever read! It weaves the two lives of Anna and Levin seamlessly and keeps your attention to the very end. I definitly recommend it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a teenager I hardly have to to ever read a long book. But this novel was the greatest piece of literature i have ever had in my possession. It was very clear on its message and was very thrilling on the realisticness of human behavior.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A 'marathon book' is a book that is not only going to take a lot of time for you to read, but it is also a book that will force you to exit yourself and enter a new way of thinking. You will have to accept new rules, new scenarios, new kinds of motives. 'Anna Karenina' is a book of stories intertwined. The characters are real to the point that we must live with them throughout the events of their lives. Anna is comfortable in a marriage to a man she does not love. She has a son and he is singly her whole life. A nobleman soons falls in love with her and pursues her until he convinces her to become his lover.This is just the beginning and I must not say much more for fear that I will spoil it for you. I recommend this book. Like the other great 'marathon books' ie: 'moby dick', 'lucky monkeys in the sky', 'war and peace', etc., 'Anna' will not only engross you, it will devour you for the time and feeling you devote to it. Like 'lucky monkeys in the sky' and the other forementioned novels, 'Anna' carries the themes: fate,death, the meaning of life, and faith. You will most likely love it or hate it, but, most of all, you will think. In the end, I believe, it will be a devotion well worth the time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think Anna Kerenina is the best of Tolstoy's work and consider it one of the best novels ever written. Tolstoy weaves a tale like no other author and with every chapter you will be amazed at his way of describing a situation to the reader or his keen insight into human behavior. Highly Recommended. If you want to try Tolstoy on a smaller scale, try some of his short stories such as 'How much land does a man need?'
Guest More than 1 year ago
When i settled down to read Anna Karenina, i was prepared to enjoy a book that i had heard was remarkable. After the first chapter, i knew it was more than that; it is the best book ever written! It takes you along the sordid road of Anna Karenina's life, and the more pleasent and sefl fulfilling one of Levin. This book delves into the human spirit, morality, and human weakness and emotion. Leo Tolstoy is an OUTSTANDING writer who deserves the applauses of millions. I reccommend this book to every living person!
spacepotatoes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was a little daunted going into Anna Karenina, I thought of as the ultimate Classic of Classics and I¿d never read Tolstoy before. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that it defied most of my expectations.I thought the whole novel was just about Anna Karenina, but it was much more. Yes, it told the tragic story of Anna¿s loveless marriage and her doomed affair with Count Vronsky, but it also told the story of Konstantin Levin and his search for love, for faith, and for satisfaction in his work. In between, Tolstoy manages to work in commentary on family dynamics, societal expectations, the state of Russian agriculture, and the evolving political situation in Russia at the time he was writing.The novel is long and it is loaded, but it is surprisingly accessible. Tolstoy understands human nature and he writes about it well, the characters here are all complex and have real conflicts that are still very relevant more than a hundred years after they were put to paper. It was a much easier read than I had expected and more engaging. It did get dry at times when Tolstoy went into long dissertations about farming or politics, and sometimes he took thirty pages to describe something that could have been covered in a few paragraphs. But just when I was ready to throw in the towel, the story took off again.I think some of my enjoyment of the book suffered from the way that I read it, one part a month, and something like this is not very well suited to the summer months. I am planning to give it another go at some point in the winter, when I can curl up in a blanket and read it cover to cover.Overall: lengthy and involved, but worth the effort.
arouse77 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i must preface this by saying that when i took a Russian history class a few years ago my instructor emphasized that Russian culture is very distinct from most Western thought, and any Russian literature i have ever read reinforces this posit. i enjoyed this book but found many of the actions and motivations of its main characters somewhat incomprehensible. the sense of melancholia that pervades the book is certainly familiar to anyone suffering from clinical depression, but not necessarily an uplifting read. a classic of modern literature, worth reading if not immediately approachable. plan to work a little more for this one.
neringros on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read it in 9th grade, I think. Still think it's one of the best books of all time. Timeless story.
jonbeckett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the few books I have ever read that proved to be as good as it's reputation (in this case a rather lofty one - one of the greatest books ever written).It took a long time to get into, but was worth the perseverance. The characters are wonderful - and confound you throughout the story. The picture painted of russian society at the turn of the century is wonderful too.
Foxen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. Truly a book of epic proportions, that very much deserves its status as a classic. I think this books is generally revered for the breadth of humanity it portrays, and I think that that is generally the best sense in which to understand it. It is basically a social novel in the European style (think Jane Austen, et al.), but generally much much larger. It follows the interconnected lives of a handful of characters through their relatively normal lives. No larger-than-life heroes, just the large-ness of the mundane lives that everyone leads. Regular people making their decisions and living with them, coming to terms with the world around them.Going into this book I knew nothing about it, except for the fate of the title character (I won't spoil it, but knowing the spoiler probably actually helped keep my interest in the slower sections). Retrospectively, I found Anna the least interesting of the characters. Everyone involved is well-developed and their interconnected stories successfully explore their characters and motivations. On the surface this sounds like a book (an 850 page book, at that) with no particular plot to speak of, that's just kind of "about people" in the most vague way possible, but it really is an insightful look at the human condition, and earns its length, in my opinion. Well worth the effort!
bookmagic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Masterpiece by Tolstoy, Anna Karenina s the story of the doomed love affair between Anna and Vronsky. Anna is desperately unhappy in her marriage and is pursued by Count Vronsky and becomes his lover. Though not as long as War and Peace, it is long and keeping track of all the Russian names and nicknames is difficult. But the novel is well worth the read as Anna struggles with her decisions and the consequences.
sirfurboy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have been reading this for the group read, but this month I just kept reading through to the end. Tolstoy's works are famously long, but they are also very interesting - and this book surprised me with its Christian message. Ostensibly following Anna Karenina through the death of her marriage, a doomed love affair and her eventual demise, this book could equally be named for Levin, a character that seems to be based largely on Tolstoy. In Levin we see a struggle to lead a life of compasion and quiet morality informed by his Christian faith, whilst in Anna we see the terrible consequences hypocrisy in society as it publically condemns her love affair but privately winks at it.And whilst we feel for Anna and her husband and her lover, and her son - we see greater aprobation for the chattering classes of the hypocritical society. This is a wonderful work because it brings out so much that is hidden beneath a veneer of respectability. It is also wonderful for its characterisations - especially of a certain hunting dog!All in all I was very glad I read this book. It has led me to understand Tolstoy's Christian Anarchism better too, and the ideas in the book are engaging, challenging, forward thinking for their time and often just so right!
Emlyn_Chand on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Preview¿ Although overall, Leo Tolstoy¿s ¿Anna Karenina¿ did not match my sky-high expectations for it, this novel is still worth recommending. The Ann Arbor Classics Book Group¿s discussion of itboasted the highest turn-out in the group¿s history, many members claiming the title as one of the best books they had ever read.The beauty of this story is that it is a work of parallels. The author gives three competing views of love and marriage through the stories of the Oblonskys, the Levins and the Karenins. Stiva and Dolly Oblonsky have a stable loveless marriage ¿ and seven children to go with it ¿ despite Stiva¿s constant infidelity and prodigality. Some might say they offer comic relief in an otherwise very serious novel.After their strange and fragmented courtship, Konstantin and Kitty Levin have a very real and normal marriage. They grow closer as they explore the intricacies of their new matrimonial arrangement and how it affects the previous freedoms and pastimes they once exercised. The moment when these two characters discover they have mutual love for one another is one of the absolute sweetest moments in literature ¿ you¿ll have to read the story to experience this scene for yourself!Finally, the situation of the Karenins is the most complicated. Anna is married to a high-ranking political figure, Alexey. She is happy enough, until she finds ineffaceable passion with military man Vronsky. Ultimatley, Vronsky and Anna run off together after she almost dies giving birth to their illegitimate love child; all the while the two hope that Alexey will brook the social disgrace of his wife¿s betrayal and grant her a divorce. The treatment of Vronsky and Anna presents the double-standard that was present in Russian society at the time. Even after the public becomes cognizant of their arrangement, Vronsky can still move in and out of society as he pleases, while Anna¿s denigrated reputation greatly limited what she could and could not do.Throughout the novel, many of the characters search for profound happiness and a deeper meaning in life. Anna hopes to find fulfillment through love and passion. Sergei thinks his higher calling is intellectual enlightenment. Stiva believes happiness lies in revelry and debauchery. Alexey lets superstition overrun his life post-Anna. Levin, initially believing that `simplicity is bliss¿, eventually finds meaning through a spiritual awakening; all other characters fall short ¿ and some fall under the train ¿ in their pursuits of happiness.You may like this book if¿ you enjoy societal critiques or feminist literature, you are devoutly spiritual, you enjoy a study in contrasts, you like peasants and farming, you appreciate Tolstoy¿s very accurate portrayal of the inner workings of his characters, you like love stories that show how just how challenging being in love can be, you don¿t want cookie-cutter characters or scenarios, you are patient and have a good attention span.You may not like this book if¿ you expect Tolstoy¿s writing style and themes to be similar to those of other Russian greats, you get easily bored by long harangues regarding elements that are not so important to the story, you ¿ like me ¿ expect your Russian literature to be much more dark and depressing than this story is, you need your characters to be likable if you are going to spend so much time with them, you find it frustrating when characters in novels make very obvious and annoying mistakes, gender inequality pisses you off, you would have hoped that Anna Karenina could be portrayed more kindly if she is to be a paragon of female independence.
elsyd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Russian Soap Opera!
jddunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This one is downgraded for being a crappy translation / version. Get a better more modern one, with footnotes or endnotes or what have you.
Ginerbia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anna Karenina, set in Russia, early 19th century, was a soap-opera type story of two sets of lovers and the people they interacted with. Great character development - so great that I actually think I used to date Levin (quiet, set in his own ways, didn't understand the greater picture, and was quite chauvinistic). I used to be Kitty (change myself for the man she loved, only happy if her man was happy, yadda yadda). They were a perfect couple. Anna was an independent woman who turned quite needy and whiny when she found a lover. I'm hoping that she will have more spine in Android Karenina. Anna's lover Vronsky, poor guy, was hopelessly in love wtih Anna and had no clue what he was doing. Adultery, forgiveness, technology vs. farming, peasants, faith, and trains are recurring themes.I really enjoyed reading this book. The character development and the writing style was really a breath of fresh air. I would definitely read it again.
colleenlouise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Leo Tolstoy is a master at capturing the complete character of the person with whom he chooses to convey his message through, which is why this novel resounds so strongly in my mind and moves me even to tears, despite the fact that I have read it so often that my copy is falling apart. Anna is desperate to be free, and she is not contented to be a high class wife and mother forever. So she searches for more meaning, and for self discovery, and perhaps for a little misery and drama. But she does it in her own quiet way, and in such a manner as to draw the reader so completely in to each and every twist and turn of the convoluted plot that Anna's plight and desperation becomes your own.
srice07 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just can't keep all the different names straight... I know, more a reflection of me than the novel.
Ibreak4books on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Every time I read this book, I think about the characters and their situations a little differently. I guess that means it's great.
kateh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of my all time favorite books. I loved how the author intertwined so many different characters and their stories. My favorite was the tragic love story of Anna and Count Vronsky. When I read it I already knew the ending, most people do, but it didn't make the book any less enjoyable. Knowing the outcome gave everything a doomed sense that heightened the romance and beauty of the story. The other characters' stories are also interesting, everything about this book is fantastic.
mkhongms on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read this after I got married - the couples' relationships and emotions really started to make sense then.
DSDragon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting, frustrating, and somewhat confusing book for me.It took 18 chapters for me to really feel like reading it at all--because that's how long it took for the TITLE CHARACTER to show up. Honestly, how many stories do you know of where the person who's in the title (if there is a person in the title) isn't there on the very first few pages of the book? Anna Karenina is the only one I can think of.I find myself liking Levin better than Anna, and Anna better than her husband. Levin, in the end, had some thoughts that I've often thought myself about religion and what we're here for, etc.And the way Anna was, at first, PROUD to be openly adulterous, as opposed to the other people in her society who hid their adulteries! That I could not stomach. Whether hidden or not, adultery is just WRONG.While I sympathized with her feelings on a purely emotional level, ultimately, she was the cause of her own problems since she was the one who put herself into that situation to begin with--minus her inability to see her son . . . that was all her husband's selfishness.Karenin . . . I almost liked him during the little while after little Annie was born, when he was being all good and forgiving. But then he refused a divorce, citing religion and stuff like that, when there IS a stipulation in the bible (in the beattitudes) that adultery is a perfectly good reason for divorce. I also hate that, in the times that this book depicts, only the man could file for a divorce. And it doesn't seem as though there was anything even resembling joint custody in those days either.Vronsky . . . what can I say about Vronsky?At first, I found him awful--purposely pursuing a woman whom he KNEW was married. But by the end, I saw that he really did love her. He wanted to have more children with her, and for them to be his legitimate children.Although, I don't understand why Karenin should get custody of little Annie, even though Anna was his wife at the time the girl was born--the baby was not his blood, and therefore was not his daughter. She was Anna's illigitimate daughter with Vronsky. Karenin had nothing to do with it, except by marriage to Anna.I hated that Anna refused to have more children because of her fear that Vronsky would grow tired of her if she became pregnant and had to put on weight and lose her figure. She was obviously not listening to him all the times when he said he WANTED children. And either she didn't tell him, or he didn't listen when she did, about her fear.Over all, I'm giving this book 2½ stars, because my feelings about it are so ambiguous, I can't really decide whether I like it or not.And what was WITH Anna's name? Why was she called "Anna Arkanya, or whatever it was? If she was Oblonsky's sister, shouldn't she have been called Anna Oblonsky or Anna Karenin? Not to mention, she was NEVER called Anna Karenina in the book itself!And don't even get me STARTED on Oblonsky! GRRR.
ysar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was my first attempt at Tolstoy and my first stop in my revisit to classic literature. I am now hooked. Despite the daunting length of the book and the saddening story, I found the characters appealing and the journey fulfilling. The term "classic" simply doesn't do this book justice.
mouse612 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought this was one of those books I should read, however, I couldn't bring myself to care about Anna or any of the other characters by halfway through. I found the writing rather tedious as well. I'll stick to the Russians short stories, I can make it through those.