Monday, August 3, 2015

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

My Rating: 
3.5 stars

Hey y'all! Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I would like to say that I was sorta busy but that's not true. Well, half of it is...I spent nearly two weeks trying to finish this dang book! Anyway I know I wasn't very responsible with posting regularly and I'm sorry. Unfortunately, school is going to start soon so I can't promise regular, on-time posting. However, I hope I will be able to post a review every week. Sorry. :((

Let's get back to the books, shall we? A month ago, I felt that I needed to seriously broaden my horizons. I have been reading YA fiction since I was ten and I loved it. But there's only so much that a girl can be surprised about when reading YA fiction. To be truthful, most YA fiction use the same repetitive plot. Sure, it may be a different setting and different characters but you always have the girl meets boy, girl and boy fall in love, problems arise and boy makes dumb mistake, girl and boy break up, boy professes undying love for girl aaandd they get back together. Of course, there are a few amazing YA books but the others kind of just fall to the back of my mind. So I felt I needed a change. I needed to read a book that was so amazing and beautiful that my world view would be changed. So my friend asked me if I had read "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy. And I was like "No! The freaking book is, like, 800 pages!!" And she was like, "Yeah, but it's a classic." And I said, "What's it about? Please, please. Give me a book that isn't the regular YA plot." 

And she said, "It's about a Russian wealthy socialite who falls in love with a count."


But I read the book anyways. I had heard a lot of great things about it and even the title sounds regal and beautiful.I had heard famous quotes that made the poet in me fangirl like crazy. So I borrowed it from my local library even if the premise was everything I was hoping to avoid. I cuddled into my blanket and settled in my bed with it, hoping, begging for a good read. 

I kind of succeeded. In a way, it was so much more complex than I thought when I read the summary. Complexity is good. It was seriously intricate because it touched upon many issues in Russian society. Like the fact that Anna Karenina, the socialite by falling in love with a count is seen as a slut by her society. And the fact that the count, Vronsky, is the victim of her machinations. The title of the book is also deceiving. Though it is called "Anna Karenina" the book speaks from at least ten different characters' points of views. You have Konstantin Levin, a wealthy yet awkward man who eschews society and its pleasures. Kitty, a beautiful yet naive princess who also falls in love with Vronsky. All of these characters, including Anna and Vronsky, share their sorrows and worries through 800 pages and long, long sentences with hard vocabulary.

And gosh, did it take forever. It never seemed to end and the characters had endless problems. I had read a review on this book on Goodreads and the girl stated the problem perfectly. If you aren't interested in the book's characters and you can't feel sympathy or anger for specific characters, put the book down and walk away. It's not the right book for you. In the middle of my arduous task of finishing it, I seriously felt that way most of the time and I wondered if I was wasting my time with it. 

But the truth is, it was a fantastic book. Though complex and difficult to read, Tolstoy is able to highlight the issues of Russian society--the high standards set for women to be virtuous and innocent and the question that asks, "Is this society really good?" The view that I got from this book is that Tolstoy's society is poisonous, harmful and insidious. Though the people smile and compliment each other on the outside, they secretly have different, usually opposite feelings. Throughout the book, I felt Anna's strain to keep up a cheerful, cool demeanor in front of judging women who rejected her. I watched as the strain of looking happy and the realization that she was a social outcast changed Anna into a brilliant, bright woman into a jealous, depressed one. 

The truth is, I hated Anna. I hated her because she got swept away by Vronsky's charm and dropped everything, including her little son and husband. Her husband, who had his own flaws, decided to forgive her for the affair and how did she repay his generosity? By hating him and saying that she couldn't stand his "magnanimity" because it ashamed her. Apparently, it "ashamed" her to the point that she decided to run away with Vronsky and leave her abandoned son and husband at home. Vronsky was also a douche who cared little about anyone else other than himself and Anna. He was charming and handsome but on the inside, I felt like he was an uncertain little boy who didn't know how to handle the mess he and Anna created.

But part of me wonders why I hated some of these character so. Is it because part of me sees the depravity and immorality that may exist in each one of us? Or maybe that I wished for a clean, good character but got flawed, fickle characters instead? And does the portrayal of Anna and Vronsky reflect real life people? 

The answer is I don't know. This book twisted me into an awkward mess because I had no idea how to feel about it. I hated it, loved it and regretted it. The characters made so many mistakes, thought so many negative thoughts and were so fickle with love. The book was so long yet it was an incredible journey that gave me insight into the lives of these characters and Russian society. I don't know if I can say it is unforgettable but I understand why it is a classic. 

Some quotes:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

“He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.” 

“I think... if it is true that 
there are as many minds as there 
are heads, then there are as many 
kinds of love as there are hearts.” 

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