Top critical review
3.5 stars; a little lengthy but worth the effort
on September 30, 2009
[Cross-posted to LibraryThing and LivingSocial]
I was a little daunted going into Anna Karenina, I thought of it 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.