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Archive for the tag “Leo Tolstoy”

Review: Anna Karenina

I originally started Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy in 2004 when it was taken up by Oprah’s Book Club. It was the only book I ever picked up for Oprah’s Book Club, and I didn’t get far before I decided it would be better to quit. Anna Karenina moved with me from my parent’s house, to my first apartment in Baltimore, back to their house, and later, to New York where it would be packed and unpacked, all the while collecting dust between moves. Until this summer when I decided I needed to finish it.

When I stumbled onto Five Alarm Book Reviews Anna Karenina Read Along for July, I decided I had found the perfect solution, something to keep me motivated, and an opportunity to discuss the rather thick tome. What I did not anticipate, however, is how easy it would be to fall behind. Mid-July I got behind on my reading, and never recovered, but these last  two weeks, I found myself determined to finish.

Tolstoy is a story teller, and a wildly ambitious one. The Russian novelist creates an obscene number of characters for his eight part epic novel, all with overlapping lives, and formal and informal names. It was necessary for the first half of the book to pay close attention to character names and nicknames.

The novel begins,

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

It is an appropriate opening line, as Tolstoy unfolds the story of three families, each unhappy in its own unique way- Dolly and Stiva as they deal with his infidelity, Anna and Karenin as they deal with her unfaithfulness and her continued relationship with Vronsky, and Kitty and Levin, as they navigate what was a difficult start for both of them as they seem surrounded by infidelity. The backdrop of this magnificently complicated series of stories is the changing political climate of Russia, Tolstoy’s own thoughts on religion, and Europe’s art and culture scene.

In spite of it all, I found myself drawn into Tolstoy’s storytelling, wanting to see how things played out in each of the character’s lives. Would Karenin allow the divorce? Would Anna continue to manipulate Vronsky, and everyone around her? Would Levin and Kitty live happily ever after? I had to know. And though I found myself bored at times, such as when the perspective would turn to Levin whose primary internal monologue involved farming, or when the political discussions took on too many references that I was unfamiliar with, I still read on.

Tolstoy draws the reader in with his narrative arc and complex characters. He changes the perspective and internal monologues the reader observes, giving a fuller picture of the characters relationships and interactions. And he builds the novel to such a climax and holds it that you really start to wonder if anything is going to happen. When Anna does finally take action, it was nearly impossible to believe.

Although I may not have always enjoyed the characters and found myself bored as Tolstoy sought to make a point I really didn’t care about, Anna Karenina is without an amazing piece of literature. I admire Tolstoy’s boldness and his use of narrative and change in perspective in adding depth to the story and characters.

Summer Reading Challenge Progress Report

Well, it has been over a month since my post announcing my participation in the Summer Reading Challenge and I thought I should update all of you on my progress to date.

So far, I’ve finished:

6. One Classic All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

8. One New Release Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by AJ Jacobs

And  I am nearly completed with:

10. One Chunkster (A Book That Is Over 400 Pages) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy 

It’s not a bad start considering one of the books on that list is over 800 pages, but there are still 7 books that remain on the list, and of course, a few of the remaining could fall into the chunkster category as well. I also have quite a stack of books in my to be read pile, as well as, two books from publishers to be finished and reviewed. With this challenge, and that big stack of library books, I’ve decided to suspend my holds for the next few weeks at my local library.

Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the challenge because it presents such a wide variety of books, but I have found that one of the things I also desire during the summer is some light reading. So I think my compromise is that I will press on with my Summer Reading Challenge, but I will also weave in some lighter fiction as well, more than likely on weekends when I have more time to read.

If you’ve taken up the challenge with me, what are you reading, and how are you progressing so far?

Anna Karenina Read Along Part 1 and 2

I admit, I struggled a bit with Anna Karenina at first.  The opening line is a doozy, and puts us right in the middle of the drama.

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Whoa! Alrighty then Count Tolstoy. In spite of my initial misgivings, I have been thoroughly enveloped by the story. Now I want to see what’s happening between Anna and her husband, to see whether or not Levin will man up a bit and pursue Kitty, or if Oblonsky will ever stop being a twit. There is ALOT of story here. And I will confess, it is occasionally a challenge trying to follow all the characters with thier multiple names and deeply intertwined lives, but its worth it.

Tolstoy has this way of revealing the character’s inner thoughts which adds an unexpected depth to the story, and to the character. Without the thoughts of Karenina he would seem a very one note character, but because we see what he is thinking and feeling, he doesn’t seem as out of the know or as uncaring as Anna would have us believe.

As much as I have become enveloped in the story, I continue to have my reservations. Tolstory seems to have a very dark outlook on things (think back to the opening line) and honestly, there are parts of Russian society I don’t understand. Are discreet affairs okay among the aristocracy but obvious ones unacceptable? Why is any affair acceptable?

The timing is clearly pre-Revolution, but is the Revolution beginning to build at this point among the peasants? What is the point of the zemstvo that Levin refuses to be involved in? So many questions…but I suppose I’ll just need to read on to see if Tolstoy answers any of my questions.

Summer Reading: Anna Karenina Read Along Announcement

The chunkster on my Summer Reading Challenge (see post here: https://thenerdreports.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/summer-reading-challenges/) is Anna Karenina, a rather daunting read I attempted a few years ago. I was trying to figure out how I was going to tackle this one when I was on the Five Alarm Book Reviews blog and noticed an announcement for an Anna Karenina Read Along in July (see post here: http://fivealarmbookreviews.com/2012/06/12/anna-karenina-announcement-and-sign-ups/).

According to Steph over at Five Alarm, here’s how it works:

“This is summer, so we are keeping it fun and easy.  There will not be any official questions, although I will post some each week if you would like to use them for conversation starters.  We will each write up our thoughts on the book on the scheduled dates and link up.  If you link up within a few days of the scheduled date, that is fine too.”

You DO NOT have to be a blogger to participate.  You can sign up by using a link to where you will be posting.  ie: Goodreads, Amazon, Shelfari, etc.

We will use the hashtag #ReadingAnnaKarenina on Twitter.

Post and Readding Schedule

Start Up Post/Announcement Post – Now through July 1

1st Post for Parts 1 and 2 – July 7

2nd Post  for Parts 3 and 4- July 14

3rd Post  for Parts 5 and 6- July 21

4th  For Parts 7 and 8- July 28

Final Review – July 31

So…be prepared to follow along as I, and others, work through Anna Karenina together. Please feel free to join- I would love for all of you to be reading along!

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