Anna Karenina is a beautiful book. Its sheer size makes it daunting and had made me put off reading it for years, but I am so happy I finally did. It was an amazing read, certainly deserving of a place among the Western canon. While the title character does figure quite a bit among its pages, there are a good number of others that are also well-developed and their storylines are all intertwined masterfully. I really feel like I got a good taste for the culture and experiences of folks in this little snippet of the world — mostly upper-class Russia in the middle of the 19th century; the characters are largely young adults or heading into middle age. But there is a great mix of different philosophies; one character is deeply invested in improving the lot of the peasants, starting with those on his own estate. There is a great deal of philosophizing throughout the novel, and it really pulls the whole thing together. Another character is building a hospital to serve the local area. There are any number of dinners and hunts and salons that move the story along. There are a couple childbirths, and a big gathering for an election, and so much else.
I’d recommend this book to anyone that believes in the power of literature. Reading it is definitely an undertaking, but well worth it for the rich insights, the wealth of exposure to so many little moments in life that build upon one another to become an incredible fabric of story. I am definitely grateful that I did pick it up. There are so many enlightening scenes — a short conversation pressing someone to seek a divorce, a mother visiting her son on his birthday, a man distressed as he watches his brother slowly dying before his eyes… I could go on. So many others have written and spoken before me on this novel, but I still think there are new and fresh things for anyone to discover on their own among its pages. No amount of analysis or summary could stand in for reading the work yourself, and doing so opens you up to a wide world of commentary and discussion full of philosophy and intrigue that would be difficult to access any other way. Find a stranger who has also read the book, and you automatically have a great, lengthy conversation available to you.
In summary, it is a classic. Every hour spent reading it is one deeply rewarding. Whether you are interested in Russia, or love a good romance, or just aspire to a good acquaintance with many important works of literature, this is a good choice of novel to pick up. I really hope you’ll do so — and then send me a line asking to discuss it ;).
kate at bluetulip dot org. I’m waiting :).