Book Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

I am excited to say that finishing Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Goodreads link) completes my Classic Reading List (for now)!

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How can I possibly review this timeless classic and do it justice?

Having read a different Russian novel, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, I had an idea of what to expect from Tolstoy. I expected a lot of philosophy and religion tangents thrown in and I was not disappointed, though at times I found I could do without some of them.

To me, Anna Karenina is a story about family, relationships, love – extramarital, marital, platonic – philosophy, religion, death, suicide, and self-discovery. 

And it is within all this that Tolstoy articulates that we are all human, we all go through the same emotions, no matter who you are. And we all make mistakes.

“I’ve always loved you, and when you love someone, you love the whole person, just as he or she is, and not as you would like them to be.”

I’ll be honest, Anna’s story arc was not my favorite; I much preferred Levin’s and Kitty’s story line. I can only imagine it’s because it’s a happier one.

Anna is a woman who seems to have everything: a place in society, beauty, intelligence, a son she adores, but it isn’t until she meets the Count Vronsky that she realizes how loveless her marriage is, soon leading her down the path where she rejects her marriage and dives headlong into a passion filled affair with Vronsky.

But these choices of Anna’s came with consequences, ones that I believe she didn’t really think about and soon found herself lost and suffering the consequences. But while it’s unfortunate that this particular time and society wasn’t kind to women who have affairs or end up divorcing their husbands to run off with their lovers (or not to run off), she still had a choice.

And part of what bothered me was that at one point, she didn’t seem to think about her son at all. I also was not a huge fan of Vronsky … I mean, he deliberately lead Kitty on and left her heartbroken in the dust to pursue Anna, a married women. How they fell for him and his acts, I’ll never know.

I much preferred Levin, even though he may be too much of deep thinker for me, he’s overall one of the good ones and I was very happy when he and Kitty finally ended up together. Though I could have done without all of the talk about farming techniques, but then again I was not surprised.

It’s interesting that while the novel follows more than one story arc, it is named after Anna Karenina because she’s the catalyst for the whole novel. I think it would be very interesting to think about how all the characters would have turned out if Anna did not exist. Would Levin and Kitty still have married each other? Would Vronsky have continued up the ranks in the service? Would Stepan and Dolly have parted ways after his affair? It’s also interesting to note that both Anna and her brother Stepan both had extramarital affairs, though Anna’s husband was of a less forgiving nature.

“Whatever our fate is or may be, we have made it and do not complain of it.”

After the unfortunate ending of part seven, which took me a moment to realize what had occurred considering the event wasn’t exactly clearly written, I found myself slightly lost at the beginning of part eight, the last of the novel. And I have to say that it felt very anticlimactic. The unfortunate event happened and then … that’s it. The story and everyone continues on. I found that very sad, but I had no choice but to move on with the story.

Part eight, the ending, was actually not my favorite. It was very heavy on the philosophy, which I don’t always grasp, though the book did come full circle with Levin and his usual inner thoughts regarding his self-discovery and the ultimate questions we all ask ourselves: Why are we here? What is our purpose?

I really liked this story because it’s relevant even today, no matter when it was written.

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”

I believe this classic novel is worth tackling for any reader, so if you pick it up, I really hope you enjoy it and I hope I get to read other thoughts and views! 🙂

Have you read Anna? What are your thoughts? Is it on your TBR list? Has anyone read Anna and watched the Keira Knightly movie? 

Happy Reading!

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

  1. First of all, a big congratulations on finishing the last book on your classics list. Anna Karenina and Vanity Fair are at the top of my list of classics I still want to read. At almost 1000 pages I’m still a bit daunted by A.K., but your positive review is pushing me ever closer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you and I’m glad my review helps! I got the PV edition which I found really easy to read and most of the chapters were short, which I also liked. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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