Friday, August 26, 2011

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - Review

I've always loved me some historical fiction. I've heard of the title Anna Karenina way back when, but never read it. I was browsing through titles on the web and decided 'what the hell, why not?'. I've heard of Leo Tolstoy before because of his epic novel "War and Peace" and decided that it would be great as well.

It was way too verbose for my tastes. The version I read was over 800 pages and small print. Yikes! Tolstoy describes every single minute detail of nearly every leading characters lives over the course of two years(I probably know more about farming and Russian politics than I ever even wanted to know). It's exhausting. I started reading it and would get bored and have to lay it aside until I was bored of not reading and pick it up just because it was something to do instead of housework (who wants to do that?). 

The story takes place in Russia. I haven't read many novels that take place in Russia. I believe the only one I've read is one of the Vampire Academy novels which takes place briefly in Russia and Siberia. Any how, I was excited to learn what life was like in Russia during the mid-1800s. Historical fiction novels always give you glimpse in time to the specific time and place. Daily routines, activities, political campaigns, societal views, and fashion are some of the few glimpses in time you will get when reading Anna Karenina. Growing up in the information age, it's hard to imagine how anyone lived back then, but also so fascinating at the same time. This book covers characters in high society and peasant class and their interactions. 

It's the double drama of Anna's life and Levin's life . They are not completely different stories, all the characters know each other. So you see the same characters in each of the main characters lives. I have to say my favorite character was Oblonsky (oh yeah, all male characters are referred to by their last names and they are super Russian - get ready for pronunciation troubles), his character has so much personality. He had me smiling and laughing with his comments. 

I'm not going to spoil anything for you, but I thought it was intriguing how the two heroines: Anna and Kitty started as polar opposites (one was happy and one was miserable) and at the end they flip-flopped (one ended up happy and the other miserable). A moral lesson was attached to their outcomes as well. One made good moral choices and ended up happy and the other immoral (according to society at the time) choices and ended up miserable. 

Between infidelity, drug use, madness, attempted suicide, and successful suicide; it was enough to keep me coming back for more. The issue on divorce and divorce practices at that time was nearly incomprehensible to me since I've live in an age where couples are getting divorced everyday. In the book you'll find such crazy divorce practices and child visitation is nonexistent when one party is in the wrong. It also address the age old question of science vs. religion. 
Overall, it was interesting but long and draining due to the extensive details associated with every single action or thought.

Happy Reading,

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