Thursday, July 19, 2012

Anna Karenina

It is perhaps one of the most famous openings of a book, rivaled only by the writings of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." This is the sentence that starts off Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. 

I read Anna Karenina two summers ago in between working and whatever household duties I had that day. The book is divided into eight parts, telling the story of Anna Karenina, her husband, Anna's affair, and the relationship trials of her sister-in-law Kitty. Perhaps it is because I do not have the same feelings of restlessness and hopelessness but I do not relate to Anna on any level much at all. I don't really identify with many of the characters at all. Perhaps Levin (Kitty's husband) if I had to pick. And I feel exceptional amounts of empathy for Anna's two children who never feel her love. 

The book is exceedingly well written, however. And perhaps the reason that I enjoy the character of Levin most of all is that he is semi-autobiographical (at least according to theory) for Tolstoy himself. He does come across as the most genuine character, so perhaps that says something about Tolstoy's own moral character. The themes are interesting to explore (love, faith, family etc) and not all together uncommon, but presented in a way just unique enough that you want to know what happens. I also like that there are very few redeeming moments for the characters. Tolstoy portrays real characters in a very unflinching, almost critical light. 

If you are a fan of the classics I would definitely add Anna Karenina to your list. Just don't expect that you are necessarily going to feel emotionally satisfied after you've finished it. Maybe pick it up in time to read it before the Keira Knightley version comes out in November. Or there is always the 1948 Vivien Leigh version

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