Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

It seems futile to write a review of this iconic Russian novel. Persons who have PhDs on the subject have already done so and far better than I ever could. But as a lay reader, I simply loved this book, every heartbreaking, angst-filled, tragic moment of it. I cried, I gasped, I would have bitten my nails if I had that habit. And I laughed out loud at dear Levin’s struggle with shyness, with love, with becoming a father. The poor dear man. If it’s trued that he’s modeled after Tolstoy himself than I should have been less intimidated by his genius and more drawn in by his humanity.

I agree with those who have questioned before, why is this book called Anna Karenina? The story of Levin seemed to have so much more depth. Anna is much the same character in so many novels, a woman who falls in love with the wrong man and is driven mad by it. A harshly judgmental society world and her husband’s refusal to grant her divorce surely play their part, but mostly its her own insecurity, vanity and jealously that lead to her demise.

Tolstoy’s novel is so much more than the story of a fallen woman. Levin grapples with academia over manual labor, with justice over rule of law, with equality or old world hierarchy, with societal roles or innate desires, with faith or doubt, with religion or science. Everything man has ever questioned, he does, with thoughts and questions pouring out of him in eloquent sentence after eloquent sentence. Where do we stand in the greater picture? What is our purpose? And how do we reconcile all of it with that of others? I’m left questioning. I’m left emptied of emotions after a roller coaster of them. I’m left in awe of the writing.

 

 

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