Friday, 26 July 2013

Anna Karenina: Classics Club Spin

Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy

What an emotional roller-coaster  I mean, PHEW, I feel pretty drained right about now. AK should come with a health warning or something to allow those of a sensitive disposition (by this I mean myself, obviously) to prepare themselves for such an emotional reading experience. There was wonder, there was disgust, there was adoration, there was joy, there was anger, there was confusion (THOSE farming bits), there was love and there were moments when I just felt like flinging the book and everyone in it across the room. 

This is a hard review to write so I'm not actually going to bother. Instead I'm going to share with you my thoughts. Or at least, some of them. It is a chunk after all. Insert the bullet points:

  • Is it just me or do most of the characters have the most ridiculously expressive eyes? Seriously, the amount of times Tolstoy is all like 'her eyes told me this' or 'his eyes told me that' is kinda excessive. People can't honestly say all the stuff he thinks they do just with a narrowing or a widening of the eyes or an extra intense gaze. If they can, well then, I must be missing out on a whole load of exciting public transport liaisons. 
  • Vronsky makes me think of a spoilt public school boy. With lots of hair. I don't know why but I get the impression he is very hairy. He annoyed me. All that whimpering over Anna, the failed attempt at suicide that was apparently not a suicide attempt, becoming a painter etc etc. Dude was a pain.
  • Kitty = wet blanket. Although marrying Levin does show quite the awareness of the role of the unmarried woman. Basically, get married or have a crappy life.
  • The Kitty/Levin proposal scene (take 2). Chalk? Writing letters that are essentially acronyms of sentences? Likely? I think not. Sickly? Very much so.
  • Levin in general: in regards to this barrel of laughs, much of the time I was thinking 'Jeez Levin, put a sock in it will you'. All that farming chatter throughout and then all that faith stuff and then all that meaning of life stuff. I thought for second I'd be reading about another suicide. Dude got depressing. And all that jealousy? Respect your wife, Levin, and she'll respect you back. She always did anyway but you were just too wrapped up in self-deprecation to see it. She may have fancied Vronsky more than you (can you blame her?) but you got her in the end so man up and respect her. Rather than kicking guests out of your house like a stroppy child. Ah, Levin. It's so hard not to picture an angry little man. Although, when he joins in with the farm DH Lawrence a run for his money that's for sure.
  • The issue of women. I could not avoid having a little chuckle to myself when the whole woman question rears it head. It is all just so laughable. Particularly with that Russian chap repeatedly sticking his nose in to lament that fact that he is not 'allowed' to be a wet nurse. Mate, surely that's pretty obvious, no? I don't know what Tolstoy's actual thoughts are on the matter because I didn't look into it and wasn't in the mood to deeply analyse the section but, whether he is pro-woman or not, this section sure did tickle me.
  • Anna. Anna, Anna, Anna, what are we going to do with you, eh? I loved her and hated her pretty equally. More often that not it veered towards pure hatred but, all in all, it was pretty balanced. I just wouldn't even know where to start talking about her. Kitty calls her a despicable woman at some point quite near the beginning and this is so true. She is despicable. And yet, she is only how society created her. She is a victim but also culprit. She is made miserable but she creates her own misery. She is like the ultimate contradiction. So much so that I find it very hard to even decide how I feel about her, let alone sum up those feelings. I think that because of the ending and her determination to punish Vronsky and the way she ultimately does so, I will always see her as a despicable woman. It is such a tricky one! Anyone have any thoughts? Who likes her or hates her?

As you can tell, I find it easier to write about things that I didn't like or had an issue with than things that I loved. Trust me though, I loved this book. Anna Karenina drove me crazy but I loved it. It was not what I expected at all (it was an easier read than I expected for starters). There are some unbelievably beautiful sentences, images and paragraphs and there are some surprisingly funny ones. A book that makes me ride that emotion train mentioned above is one worth reading in my opinion. Plus, the sense of achievement I'm feeling right now is pretty phenomenal. It's fair to say that I am more than a little pleased that this was my spin book and that the bloggers who persuaded (bullied) me into reading it and not giving up did so. You guys are awesome.



  1. Congratulations on finishing! I read part of it a couple years ago and actually did enjoy it, but eventually decided I didn't have enough time to devote to it. Someday, though. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

    1. If you find time, I think you would enjoy finishing it. It really was an interesting read. Thanks :)

  2. This is one of my favorite books of all time. It's so much more than just a story about Anna, isn't it?

    1. So much more! If it wasn't for the title I think she'd be an extra.

  3. Wow, what a cover!
    So glad you loved this book, it's one of my favourites ever. Kitty and Levin was the sub-plot I most enjoyed and I had a bit of a soft spot for Levin. I didn't exactly like Anna but I did sympathise with her by the end.

    1. I know! I searched for a lovely old copy and I do love Penguin Classics. I think I preferred the Kitty/Levin plot too, so much less dramatic although still quite over-emotional. Levin was definitely the jealous type!

  4. I'm always so interested by reviews of Anna Karenina because it always seems like people either love Levin or hate him (I LOVE HIM- and I loved him before all the farming stuff so I was like 'oh Levin, keep talking!' also wasn't a lot of that to do with Communism or was I just making that up in my head because, hello, Russian!)

    But anyway, the point is WELL DONE for reading it! It definitely does feel like an achievement in itself because that book is one big motherfucker! You did good, kid.

    1. His farming talk could so easily be adapted to sexy talk. Not that I've thought about that, obviously. I'm just thinking that Levin could have had an impact of Lawrence somewhere along the line. There were a lot of people saying 'No! I'm not Communist!' when actually they probably were.

      Thanks, I think I did good too :)


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