Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Book Review of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Publisher: Signet Classic
Type of book: Russia, classic, 1870s, adultery, marriage, life, death, rejection, war, unhappiness, madness, St. Petersburg, Moscow, farming, peasantry, wealth, money
Year it was published: 1873-1877
Tolstyo's genius for viewing social classes in the largest possible context and for sketching the subtlest human gestures becomes most evident in Anna Karenina. To this novel he brought his troubling conviction that at his moments of most intense experience man is closest to death. This is the double drama of Anna and of Levin. Sensual, rebellious, Anna renounces respectable marriage and fine position for a passionate involvement which offers a taste of freedom and a trap for destruction. Levin, an eccentric and melancholy young nobleman, surrenders his individuality to live as a peasant.
The characters are well drawn but tend to be boring and insufferable. I couldn't stand Levin nor Kitty nor anyone else for that matter. I cannot rightly call Anna charming or vital. She sounds like a paranoid woman who's afraid all the time. I wish I could understand why or how could Vronsky cheer her up because it seemed that nothing cheered her up. She's also very indecisive and can't decide whether to divorce her husband or stay with him. Levin is boring and mind-numbing. I couldn't stand him at all. He's too broody and way too righteous. If Tolstoy is the same as Levin, I doubt I could stand him. Something else that greatly annoys me is Levin name. It's Jewish, or should be Jewish, so why is Tolstoy using that name? The fact that Levin refers to the priestly class in Biblical days, which means conversion.
Adultery is bad? Umm starting things right will lead to happiness?
Third person narrative from everyone's point of view (including the dog's.) Leo is very detailed, and in this case its bad because the story itself is 808 pages and its not Gone with the Wind where I thought the size was small. In this case, its too much superfluous and pointless information. It also seems that Leo focuses on everyday with the characters. Very boring book.
Count Leo Tolstoy was born on September 9, 1828 in Yasnaya Polyana, Russia. Orphaned at nine, he was brought up by an elderly aunt and educated by French tutors until he matriculated at Kazan University in 1844. In 1847 he gave up his studies, and after several aimless years, volunteered for military duty in the Army, serving as a junior officer in the Crimean War before retiring in 1857. In 1862 Tolstoy married Sophie Behrs, a marriage that was to become, for him, bitterly unhappy. His diary, started in 1847, was used for self study and self criticism, and it served as the source from which he drew much of the material that appeared not only in his great novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), but, also in his shorter works. Seeking religious justification for his life, Tolstoy evolved a new christianity based upon his own interpretation of the gospels. Yasnaya Poylana became a mecca for his many converts. At the age of eighty-two, while away from home, the writer's health broke down in Astapovo, Riazan, and he died there on November 20th, 1910.
Believe it or not I first read this book in 8th grade, when I was, well, fifteen years of age if I'm not mistaken. I've re-read it, and again I'm wondering what was I smoking back then? I loved the beginning books, including the characters, but unlike previous time, I hated and couldn't stand Levin, (he's very pointless and boring.) I also hated Kitty. I read a little bit of Sofya Tolstoy's diary, and this time I was able to guess stories easily. It also helped that previously I took a Russian history class which helped me get through the boring parts where Levin tries to become a peasant and so forth. Leo Tolstoy, I deduce, must have had an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder because he wrote and talked so much that I quickly lost any enjoyment I had for the book and just wanted it to get it over with. Maybe it's me, but why do I never like literature from 1800s?
2 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)