Reviewer: Tall, Short & Tiny
Anna Karenina is the tragic tale of Anna Karenina, a married aristocrat and socialite, who betrays her husband by having an affair with a count. The count, Vronsky, pressures Anna into making a decision about leaving her husband; if she does, he says he will marry her, but Anna is reluctant to leave. She feels the pressures of Russian society – she is, after all, the wife of a government official – and is rather insecure and vulnerable. After fleeing to Italy with Vronsky, they eventually return to Russia and Anna finds herself ostracised, which does nothing for her insecurities. This begins to take a toll on her relationship with Vronsky; she is convinced he is unfaithful, despite his assurances that he is not, and she becomes quite possessive. The story ends rather tragically, but it seems a fitting end to such a tale.
There are many themes to Anna Karenina: jealousy, faith, (in)fidelity, social change, the value of the country life, death. These were important aspects of Russian society in the 1800s. It is suspected that there are elements of Tolstoy’s own life reflected in his writing of this novel; a quick delve into his history is enough to see why these themes occur again and again in his writing.
It is a moving story, passionately and beautifully written. Some may find Tolstoy’s style cumbersome, but I enjoy it. I like the personalities he creates, their relationships and interactions. They tend towards the overly dramatic, but that was the style of the time, and such a tragic and passionate tale requires a style that reflects this. I found the character of Anna intriguing – such a beautiful woman with everything in her favour, yet she is incredibly insecure and lacking in confidence. Vronsky irritated and appealed to me, in equal measure.
There are some lengthy passages that left me feeling glassy-eyed; Tolstoy has a propensity for describing things in great detail (as with the military maneouvres described in War and Peace), but skim-reading them didn’t detract from the novel at all.
This is a classic that, in my opinion, is well worth reading; I give it 4/5 stars.