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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on July 14, 2004
This will not, perhaps, be very helpful to you, future reader, to hear but: in my humble opinion, there is no way to *learn* to like Tolstoy. There's no process of adjustment, no method of accustoming oneself to the prose, the descriptions, the style, the themes. It's either there within you or it's not.
In other words, if you begin "Anna Karenina" and you are not immediately swept up into the story, with its many characters, family tensions, and ornate depiction of Russian society on many levels... If you are ten chapters in and going forward on pure stubbornness... Put the book down. Walk away. This is not for you.
For example: I read in an earlier review that the reader was "bored" by Levin's description of working in the fields with the peasants on his estate. Personally, I find that to be one of the most compelling passages in the entire book. I'm not right while the other reader is wrong, but I will say this: it's a matter of taste. If you are not engrossed by the complexities of this vast and entrenched society, if you do not feel sympathy for Levin, or feel drawn to Anna, or understand the attraction of Vronsky, then do not torture yourself, and move on.
If you're staying, though -- Anna remains, I believe, one of the most interesting protagonists in literature, and precisely because while the reader is almost unwillingly forced to sympathize with her feelings, it is similarly impossible to remove the stigma of blame from her, watching the wreck she makes of her life. Her transformation from the alluring and enchanting woman who so impresses young Kitty, to the sad and scorned woman that Vronsky himself no longer truly loves, in the end, is all of her own doing -- but who among us can say we would have successfully avoided all of her misjudgments?
Contrasted with Anna is Levin, though their lives are intertwined only through friends and relatives and they have no real knowledge of each other -- Levin is Anna's exact opposite. We meet him as an awkward and abrupt, solitary man, with troubled family relations and an unrequited love -- and in the end, after his long journey of self-awareness, we leave him in a place of pure contentment. We warm to Levin and take him to our hearts, perhaps because his choices are the ones we would *like* to think we would make.
If you ask the average American to name a Tolstoy novel, they will generally say "War and Peace", but I've always thought "Anne Karenina" to be the more human story, the more accessible, and perhaps the greater classic because of that. It truly is a matter of taste -- but if it's to yours, you'll have stumbled upon a literary find you'll treasure always.
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on June 22, 2004
I could visualize every scene in the book because of this translation. I don't like Oprah's recommended translation (from Pelican books). I loved the cover painting, the font, the way the book opened, the layout, everything! I felt like I just went into the book every time I opened it. I didn't get that feeling with Oprah's version. If you're going to tackle Anna K (and you should, it's great reading!), please try this version.
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on October 11, 2013
It took me a while to get through this book. I'm not a scholar or academic at all but this book is on the list of books to read before you die and it's a classic so I wanted to read it.

I have to say I loved the basic story about Anna, and also about the other characters but there were portions of this book that were painful to get through. I'm sure if I had studied Russia or Russian literature those parts would have been very interesting. Most of it seems to be social commentary on the ideals of the time...and farming...lots and lots of farming! These sections slowed the book down for me and that's why it's four stars and not five. Although I am working with a limited IQ quite frankly, and so this assessment is more a failing on my own part, and not that of the book.

I did enjoy it very much. It has a lot to say about women and their place in society and how double standards applied to Anna but not to Vronsky because of what they'd done. Something that we can still relate to somewhat today. Women are typically shamed for their sexual behavior where as men are not. Tolstoy showed this beautifully and I really felt for Anna.
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on December 24, 2002
I had finally read my 10 year old copy of Anna Karenina to death. Therefore I decided to buy a new one. I was a bit leery about trying a new translation, but this edition pleased me very much.
There are three main reasons that I recommend this book:
1. Great Story
2. Very good Translation
3. Durable Hard Cover
Great Story
In this novel Tolstoy presents marriage and human relationships in a realistic manner. Anna Karenina details a passionate love affair and it's doleful consequences. The reader experiences this tumultuous love from the point of view of the two paramours, as well as the friends and family members whom their lives touch.

Nevertheless, a tale about a cheating wife does not great literature make.
The existential struggle for meaning in life and the nature of God figures strongly as a theme in Anna Karenina. Overshadowing, in my opinion, even the experiences of the book's namesake. Any lover of philosophy will enjoy this book immensely.
The Translation
As I mentioned before, this is a good translation. By good, I mean the following:
1. Russian words are footnoted - Some words lose their meaning and cultural context when translated to English. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky did a wonderful job leaving these terms in tact. There are notes at the back of the book that fully explain each Russian word.
For example, who knew that the "roll" that Stiva eats in my previous translation was actually a "kalatch?"
2. Names of the Characters are Preserved - Princess Darya Alexandrovna Oblonsky is also known as Darya and sometimes as Dolly. The use of names and nicknames is very important in language. I appreciate that the translator preserved the use of the patronymic and various names of each character. Too bad there is not a way to translate the Russian forms of address. Sigh.
3. Foreign Language Passages are Footnoted - Many of the members of the social sphere in which the book is set spoke multiple languages. Thankfully, when Tolstoy wrote a passage in French or German, the translators let it alone and wrote a translation at the bottom of the text.
Hardback
I tend to manhandle my books, so I like hardback. I think I've had this book for about a year. It's held up pretty well.
Unless you're the kind of person who uses bookmarks and doesn't fold pages, I recommend this edition instead of a softback book.
In conclusion, Pevear and Volokhonsky's work stands out as a stellar translation of one of literature's greatest masterpieces. I highly recommend this book!
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on June 7, 2004
After owning this book for almost a year and being intimidated by it's 800 pages, I finally dug in about a month ago. All I can say is this: On June 1st, I ran out to purchase David Sedaris' new book, which I have been waiting for these last 4 years with breathless anticipation....but instead of devouring it immediately, I finished the last 100 pages of Anna first. That says alot for my commitment to this amazing book! I was so enthralled...the rich inner lives of these characters, the beautiful writing. I found myself reading sentences over and over, basking in their beauty.
I am surprised by the reviewers comments that the decisions and scenarios in this book are black and white, that the characters are stereotypes. I think the opposite is true---Tolstoy gives you a window into the thought life of every character and a glimpse at just how "grey" their struggles really are, the duality of their lives. Like Vronksy's desparate love for Anna, coupled with the nagging notion that he just might have left behind a life that he misses. Who cares (as many readers apparently do) that Anna doesn't show up until 80 pages in???? This book is more than one woman, it is a masterpeice filled with many memorable characters, male and female alike. It's the richness of the supporting characters that take this book to the next level. Simply amazing!
I tend to loathe Oprah for her book club "magic wand", but I am happy that she will bring a new crop of readers to this wonderful piece of literature. Not only will you appreciate the plot and the characters, you will appreciate the craft of writing itself.
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on November 25, 2013
Anna Karenina is a remarkable story by one of the few mega-novelists of all times. In every way, it 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.

Anna who is married to the wealthy and older Karenin lives a life of comfort without any excitement, a life that is full of routines and no zest. It is a life she had become used to until she meets the elegant Vronsky and falls in love. Now she must pay the price of adultery or seek marital stability and forgo the echoes of her heart, a soul searching trial that destabilizes the life of her family and that of her lover. In essence she abandons the meaning for her life and pursues the zest of life.

On the other hand is Levine who is in search of the meaning of life and abandons the zest of life for a purposeful life that includes a family, ideas on the advancement of humanism, being at peace with ones world and hard work in is farm and being at peace with God.

In a way, both Levine and Anna can not be blamed for opting considering one choice above the other. They all wanted happiness without having evil intentions and found a balance between the zest of life and the search of its meaning in their own different ways, hurting and find love in the process and in the end, enriching and destroying themselves in their different ways. A highly recommended read and the most insightful love story I have ever read.The Union Moujik , Doctor Zhivago , Eugene Onegin are some of the other books set in Russia that I enjoyed alongside Anna Karenina.
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on November 25, 2013
Anna Karenina is a remarkable story by one of the few mega-novelists of all times. In every way, it 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.

Anna who is married to the wealthy and older Karenin lives a life of comfort without any excitement, a life that is full of routines and no zest. It is a life she had become used to until she meets the elegant Vronsky and falls in love. Now she must pay the price of adultery or seek marital stability and forgo the echoes of her heart, a soul searching trial that destabilizes the life of her family and that of her lover. In essence she abandons the meaning for her life and pursues the zest of life.

On the other hand is Levine who is in search of the meaning of life and abandons the zest of life for a purposeful life that includes a family, ideas on the advancement of humanism, being at peace with ones world and hard work in is farm and being at peace with God.

In a way, both Levine and Anna can not be blamed for opting considering one choice above the other. They all wanted happiness without having evil intentions and found a balance between the zest of life and the search of its meaning in their own different ways, hurting and find love in the process and in the end, enriching and destroying themselves in their different ways. A highly recommended read and the most insightful love story I have ever read.The Union Moujik , Doctor Zhivago , Eugene Onegin are some of the other books set in Russia that I enjoyed alongside Anna Karenina.
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on December 2, 2014
Oprah Winfrey was right about her high regards for his story. Anna Karenina, a remarkable work of art 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.

Anna who is married to the wealthy and older Karenin lives a life of comfort without any excitement, a life that is full of routines and no zest. It is a life she had become used to until she meets the elegant Vronsky and falls in love. Now she must pay the price of adultery or seek marital stability and forgo the echoes of her heart, a soul searching trial that destabilizes the life of her family and that of her lover. In essence she abandons the meaning for her life and pursues the zest of life.

On the other hand is Levine who is in search of the meaning of life and abandons the zest of life for a purposeful life that includes a family, ideas on the advancement of humanism, being at peace with ones world and hard work in is farm and being at peace with God.

In a way, both Levine and Anna can not be blamed for opting considering one choice above the other. They all wanted happiness without having evil intentions and found a balance between the zest of life and the search of its meaning in their own different ways, hurting and find love in the process and in the end, enriching and destroying themselves in their different ways. A highly recommended read and the most insightful love story I have ever read.The Union Moujik, Doctor Zhivago , Eugene Onegin are some of the other books set in Russia that I enjoyed alongside Anna Karenina.
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on August 3, 2016
Reading this slowly, deliberately. It seems as though Tolstoy is painting a masterpiece, giving value to every light, every shadow, weaving brilliantly through the contours, I am in no hurry to finish this enjoyment.
Suggest that you take time to memorize each character's name and it's variations as you go along, it can, at least to me, become a bit confusing, but then I'm not good at remembering names.
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on March 26, 2016
In the process of reading the best book ever written ... so very well written ... a pleasure to pick up at every opportunity and read further of how Vronsky and Anna's romance is processing ... an intriguing tale of adultery and society at that time ...
This Pevear and Volokhonsky's translation is very readable ...
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