More Karenin less Levin

Ok, so I finally finished Anna Karenin and it's not that I feel particularly UNsatisfied after 800 pages worth of Russian translated 'brilliance' it's more that it didn't turn out how I expected and I guess I'm just a tad disappointed. Part of the problem was the amount of focus on the character of Levin and his plot line, which at times crosses over with Anna's, but is mostly centered around his farm, his philosophy of agriculture and his romance with Princess Kitty. For a book called 'Anna Karenin' it just seems a bit silly for her storyline to only fill about 1/2 the book. Even after her death, there is still 50 pages of the book left and her death is only briefly mentioned. Saying that, I thought the presentation of her character was exceptional, particularly when she starts to go mad. I also like the fact that I wasn't in love with her character, in fact she's a pretty awful woman and yet I was still so interested in her thoughts and her motives, which at times seem so bizarre and ridiculous. Her death is also brilliantly portrayed - even the language seems impulsive, it's like the whole text seems to leap of the page and in front of the train along with the her.

However, I do genuinely like the character of Levin. The book is often described as the 'greatest romance ever told' referring to the adulterous relationship between Anna and Vronsky, but I think the most romantic part of the book is the romance between Kitty and Levin. It's so sweet and genuine and whereas Anna and Vronsky are controlled by lust, the love between Kitty and Levin is so believable. I also love how honest Levin is as a character, he is so flawed but doesn't pretend to be anything other than himself. His search for meaning is incredibly powerful and in the last couple of chapters the philosophy on the purpose of life is analysed and evaluated through his character, which I found very effective. Since finishing the book, I found out that Tolstoy himself was a man of faith and this gave a new light to Levin's musings and I feel slightly more satisfied with his conclusion.

I guess what disappointed me was Anna's story. I wanted more response to her death and I wanted her to be a more prominent figure in the book. For instance, the book should end with a chapter referencing her death, yet in the last three chapters her existence is forgotten and as a reader I came away thinking about Levin's story rather than Anna's. Again, I wasn't completely unsatisfied by this, because I like Levin's story, I just think it's silly to name a book after a character you don't particularly want to talk about. It's obvious which character Tolstoy really wanted to explore, I guess he had to envelop him into a scandalous story about a fallen women in order that the public would actually read the stuff about him, which is a shame because Levin is great. Overall, I am really, really glad to have read it. It's a fascinating book, just a little bit fuzzy round the edges.


  1. LOL I love how your layout changes every time you post a new blog!

    This sounds like Independent People by Halldor Laxness: "mostly centered around his farm, his philosophy of agriculture"

    But this sounds like a disney movie. "his romance with Princess Kitty" What?

    Hmmm.... I'll definitely note it down on my 'to read' pile!

  2. argh it drives me crazy when you have a really ditinct idea of what a book will be, and it turn out to be completely different. I feel cheated!

    Had the exact same reaction to Wuthering Heights - worse epic romance ever :P