Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

What’s it about?

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



My thoughts

This is the first of the Russian Classics that I have ever attempted to read. This was no sprint; this was in for the long haul and was some marathon to get to where I did. I’d never had a great interest to read it but with the recent release of the movie and that it was my turn to choose for book club I thought it would be worth a shot…and I’d hoped it would make me seem more intelligent to fellow book clubbers!

You first have to be able to understand how Russian names are formed and why they use two names. This can get quite tedious as they tend to be long names, and if you read aloud in your head like I do, it takes a while to get anywhere.

I felt that the plot moved quite slowly and concentrates and examines the lives of all of the characters in an awful lot of depth. It may be the Russian translation or the way Tolstoy wrote but he does tend to use 20 words when 5 will do. It took a good couple of hundred pages to get to the affair between Anna and Vronsky which is very subtly done, I missed it and had to have it pointed out…it was that discreetly included.

Anna is an unhappily married woman who has an affair which ends in tragedy, and although sounds quite sad, she did bring it on herself. Once with Vronsky, Anna became insanely jealous. She gets what she wants and when she’s got it she isn’t happy with it and as a mother myself, I have to wonder how she could give up her child for a man? She is a very frustrating character.

‘Vengeance is mine, I shall repay’ – a phrase at the start of the book which may have been somewhat overlooked. Who’s vengeance and who will repay does it refer too? When discussed at book club, we couldn’t work out which character this referred to. I think it’s Anna’s husband Alexei as he was really the only one who was entitled to take vengeance.

“The feeling of jealousy that had tormented him while he did not know, had gone away the moment his tooth was painfully pulled out by his wife’s words. But that feeling had been replaced by another; the wish not only that she not triumph, but that she be paid back for her crime…but he wished her to suffer for disturbing his peace and honour”. 

Even though Karenin doesn’t actually take revenge, unless you consider keeping their son away from Anna revenge.

I have never not finished a book and am extremely disappointed that I haven’t got any further with this one since the end of September but this book just bores me to death. I am actually only at Part 4 of 8. I do know how the book ends as I watched (with one eye) a TV adaptation that was as dull and unexciting as the book. This is one of those rare occasions when I would advise watch the movie, forget the book and if I do get around to finishing this book some time this century I will update 🙂

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