Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Anna Karenina: A Review

Well folks, I did it!  I read my first Russian novel, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  (I read it on my Nook with the free copy I downloaded from the Gutenberg Project!  They provide free copies of public access books, which are mostly the type of books you get assigned in high school and college.  So, if you're looking for a great spot to download free "classics" onto your e-reader, check out their website

 I guess I'm not so sure what makes this such a great story, but I did enjoy the book.  There were times I thought the plot dragged a bit, and times when I thought there was too much philosophizing, but then again, there were times when the philosophical musings of the characters added to my reading experience and gave me a glimpse into what makes this book a classic.  I think had I had the benefit of reading this as a part of a reading group, or if I'd read it in high school or college as a part of a class where I could have enjoyed the benefit of insights from someone who could have pointed out to me some of the details I undoubtedly missed, I would better understand what makes this novel appear on so many Best Books lists.

In particular I'm still struggling to decide if I liked Anna Karenina, the title character.  For most of the novel I thought she was selfish and her selfish actions caused pain to those around her.  However, she's not as 2-dimensional as that.  Tolstoy also gave her a lot of goodness, and she struggled with her decisions and their consequences throughout the novel.  I've heard it said that Tolstoy himself disliked Anna Karenina, the character, and I could see why.  She certainly gave me a lot to think about as I read.  I love to put myself in the character's shoes and she was an interesting one to think about.  As many times as I've thought about it I can't decide if I would have made her same decisions or not.  I don't think I would have made the same decision as her at the end of the novel, but prior to that I'm just not sure. 

I finished the novel over a week ago and I'm still struggling to decide just how I feel about the novel.  There were times I really disliked the characters in the novel, times I truly just didn't understand them, and times I wanted to reach into the pages of the book and shake them until they came to their senses.  I guess in some respects, for me anyway, it means I must have enjoyed the book if I cared enough about the characters to have emotional reactions to them.  I liked this book enough that it would make it onto my Top 10 books for 2012, but not enough that it would make it onto my Top 10 Books Ever.  I'd recommend it to a reader who wants a gentler introduction to Russian literature than Crime and Punishment or War and Peace might give, but if you're simply a casual reader or a fan of mostly trade fiction it probably isn't the right choice for you.

Happy Reading!

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