Saturday, December 31, 2016

Book Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy book cover and review
I thought a review of Anna Karenina would be appropriate on the last day of the year, since it took me about six months to read it.  I used my Serial Reader app on my iPad.  I love this app, and I think it's the only way I will read some of these long classics that have been on my list.  The Serial Reader app gives you a short segment of the book each day.  I did end up reading ahead to finish by the end of the year. It costs $2.99 to be able to read ahead, otherwise, the app is free.

Now for the book.  I'm not including a summary, you may click on the Wikipedia link if you need one. I really didn't enjoy Anna Karenina very much.  Here are some of the reasons why:

1.  There are too many characters, and they each have two or three names.  I had trouble keeping track.

2. Related to that, there are so many different (unimportant) tangents.  If you are interested in Russian politics in the 1800s, this is your book. If we could have just had Anna's story and Kitty's story, I would have enjoyed it more. I know this is often described as "the best book ever written," but I guess I'm not cultured enough to see it.

3.  Something is lost in the translation.  The turns of phrase and weird affectations were too much for me.  I really got tired of their dialog starting with "Well, and." Maybe that makes sense in Russian, but it's just bizarre in English. I was also annoyed at the many passages in French, that were not translated or explained.

4.  The third-person point of view kept me very detached from the story.  I normally don't have trouble with POVs, but in Anna Karenina, it affected my feelings towards the characters and the book in general.

5.  I hated Anna.  I guess I didn't have much sympathy for her slow descent into madness.  She was just annoying, then all of a sudden, she's crazy.  It happened too fast and therefore I didn't feel for her as I think Tolstoy wanted me to. Or maybe you are supposed to hate her.  I never know how I'm supposed to feel when I read classic novels.

I feel accomplished that I actually read Anna Karenina. It is a story of Russian history, and I did learn quite a bit. I'm ready to watch the movie to see how it compares.  I don't think it could be worse! I've chosen Les Misérables for my next Serial Read.  You probably will see a review for that next New Year's Eve!

Published from 1873 to 1877 as a serial. First published in book form in 1878.
Copy obtained from Serial Reader
1000 pages

Rating: 2/5

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  1. You’re a lot braver than me! This book is on all those “books to read before you die” lists, but it’s huge, and it doesn’t sound very interesting. I’ve considered reading it before, but I haven’t been able to make myself do it yet.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. I actually read this while it was part of Oprah' club many moons ago. I learned a few things by doing it that way...first is DO NOT USE WIKIPEDIA. The second was it does depend what translation you use. I have since read 4 other big Russian doorstops and enjoyed each one with the exception of War and Peace which just gave me a headache.;)

  3. That's a pretty cool idea, reading them the way they were serialized. I haven't braved this one yet, classics can be kind of daunting because of their size and much slower pace than current books. And all that history doesn't make me want to read it more! But one day.
    Les Misérables is also a brave choice! Might take you very long though, isn't it made up of 4 tomes? Good luck!

  4. I am so impressed that you read this. I always believed that I should read War and Peace, but I just can't do it!


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