Anna Karenina

Posted on Jul 1, 2011


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Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy was the second book in my summer book project.  Honestly, I picked it second because I figured it would be best to get such a large book out of the way.  It's definitely not short at 868 pages.  Anna Karenina contains two parallel stories.  Anna Karenina is suffering with a husband and lover while Constantine Levin is longing for marriage with his soul mate.  These two stories are polar opposites of each other and are entangled throughout the book.

 

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I liked this book much more than I had expected.  I was resigned to a dry, boring read.  This was so not the case.  Tolstoy wrote this in a more modern style with action happening as the book opens.   I was immediately interested in the characters and vested in their outcomes.  Although, Anna really got to me after awhile.  I grew tired of her at the end and was ready for her story to be done.  On the other hand, I fell in love with Constantine Levin.  He is a hero to be respected.  His devotion to Kitty and to his farm are so opposite of Anna who seems to only think of herself.  It's said that Constantine and Kitty's marriage is based on Tolstoy's marriage.  It establishes a level of sanity which showcases how crazy Anna really is.

 

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I found this book extremely easy to read.  In fact, the easy reading made the story so much more enjoyable.  I had stumbled through Adam Bede which used different dialects at times and an older English with many common words spelled different.  For example, it took me ages to realize that "canna" meant "can't".  Those differences made for choppy reading.  With this translation, Anna K read like a modern novel.  I found that I could dive deeper into the story and characters when I didn't have to navigate through the language.

 

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One huge aspect to this translation was the handling of names.  Russian names are quite confusing and based on a complex system of who you are related to.  In other Russian novels I've read, names were very long and often extremely similar to other characters.  Also, character names would change based on who was talking to that character.  In this translation, names became a little more informal and consistent.  This was very helpful in a book that had 160 different characters.

 

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I thought it was interesting that this book had a 6 digit Library of Congress number and not the standard ISBN numbers of today.

After I finished the book, I treated myself to the Masterpiece Theater 2000 production of Anna Karenina.  Reviews said this 4 hour version stayed very true to the book. It was great to see the characters come to life.  I still want to see Greta Garbo's version soon.

 

Next book: Surfacing, by Margaret Atwood

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