“Anna read and understood everything, but she found no pleasure in reading, that is to say, in following the reflection of other people’s lives. She was too eager to live herself.”
What an incredible, incredible novel. I’d been intimidated by Anna Karenina for years, despite reading Tolstoy’s tome War and Peace a few summers back and loving it. Tolstoy’s writing is so engaging. His characters are flawed and messy in the most human way. Even after 800 pages, I still wanted more of this story.
There is a sprawling, seemingly ever-growing cast of characters in this novel, yet somehow Anna touches everyone’s lives in one way or another. Anna experiences an inner tug-of-war between wanting to pursue her desires while being condemned by society and her guilty conscience for doing so. There is so much fodder for thought here, from language and symbolism to cyclical parallels between characters and plot points. Tolstoy explores themes of motherhood, marriage, adultery, jealousy, betrayal, good vs. evil, the bond between parent and child, etc. It’s difficult to go into specifics about this book without spoiling important moments — so much of each character’s experience is wrapped up in the decisions and feelings of others.
Anna Karenina is one of those classics that I wish I had studied in college, the kind of book that makes you want to write an essay about it just to think more deeply about what it has to say (no? just me?). More than anything, this novel reminded me why I love reading older books — despite being published in 1877, Anna Karenina encompasses the same feelings of passion, uncertainty, and earnestness that we still experience today.
I’m beyond thrilled to have finally read this book — so, so worth the wait.
Have you read Anna Karenina or any other works by Tolstoy? Have any recommendations for what I should read next? I’d love to know.
Take care xx
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