A sweeping romance, Anna Karenina bewitches the reader from page one! Set in 1870s Russia, it tells the story of the young wife Anna Karenina and her tragic romantic downfall with the charming Count Vronsky. Intermingling societal commentary with extensive and dynamic characterization, Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece is one of a kind. There is no better book to excite the senses and indulge the mind. You will not regret the read!
A Societal Commentary
Even though it is romantic, the book is about more than Anna’s relationship. Tolstoy uses her unfortunate situation to discuss the nature of sin, family, and love in Russian culture at the time. As a result, he weaves in his own philosophy through the character of Levin, a stalwart Russian gentleman-farmer. Tolstoy’s critiques of society are extremely interesting and help propel the story forward contributing to the overall intensity and majesty of the work. In the end, Anna Karenina is not only a sweeping romance but also a societal expose.
It’s Not as Long as it Looks
The biggest concern with Anna Karenina is its hulking 800 pages. Do not be frightened by the length. Tolstoy’s terse and fast-paced writing style causes the story to fly. The gradual increase in intensity builds until the readers find themselves whipping through the pages breathlessly awaiting the conclusion of some dramatic situation. It is also episodic. It shifts from couple to couple portraying the different experience of lovers. For instance, on one hand, Anna and Vronsky attend parties and live life in lavish comfort while, on the other, Levin and Kitty live simply and spend their time rearing children and philosophizing. Since Tolstoy spends time with all his characters the story never drags or becomes stagnant. Dynamism is Tolstoy’s strong suit!
The Characters are Human
The most fascinating aspect of this book is the relatability of each character. In most stories, there are at least two characters that are rather two dimensional and possess no character development. Despite his large cast of eight main characters, Tolstoy overcomes this hurdle by writing without caricature or stereotype. For instance, Levin possesses the distinctively human trait of indecisiveness. All he wants is to be a farmer yet he dreams of making a splash as a philosophical politician. He oscillates between his two desires creating consternation and conflict among his family and friends. Additionally, Anna grapples with her longing to be young and wild once more and her responsibilities to her husband and child. Anna Karenina is a book of gray areas. No character is pure evil or pure good. Everyone has faults and temptations that they strive to overcome. So, whether it is the dashing Count Vronsky or the righteous Alexei Alexandrovich, the reader finds strains of the human condition in everyone.
Do not waste another second! Allow the grandeur and magic of Anna Karenina to surround you. Be transported to Russia and witness the tragic romance that has enthralled readers for centuries.