When I stopped by Idlewild in July to discover August’s book club selection, I learned something unsettling: We were completely bypassing August and meeting again in September…and the book was Anna Karenina. I looked at it sitting there, so big and daunting, and promptly turned around and walked out of the store. I thought, “Anna Karenina?? REALLY?? This isn’t 11th grade English! If I had wanted to read this, I’d have read it by now!!!!”
So I had completely decided to skip this one. Anna Karenina…HA. But then a couple weeks passed; I remembered that book club is one of my favorite extra-curricular activities, and I didn’t want to miss another meeting with no excuse besides not wanting to read the book. And I discovered that the Brooklyn Public Library had the exact version (the newest translation) we were reading available as an eBook and therefore would require literally no effort to attain…so I gave in and started reading Anna Karenina.
Anna Karenina is not a difficult read, but it’s not exactly a quick one, either. It’s a “story told in eight parts,” and I made it through four of them before my two-week digital check-out expired. But that was perfect, because I needed a break from Anna Karenina.
What do those few of you who don’t know much about Anna Karenina need to know? Russia. Social rules. Love affair.
What have I learned so far?
- Tolstoy is detailed in his writing…painstakingly detailed. He’s created these interesting, dynamic characters but sometimes goes into so much detail that it becomes incredibly boring. It’s like he starts writing about one of them and then gets carried away and keeps going and going to the point where you’re like “Ok, great, I see that Levin got a kick out of manual labor, but geez I don’t need to know about every swoop of his scythe.”
- The story can drag…but so can the characters. They all have some sort of “falling from grace” moment, some indication that they aren’t easily pigeonholed as the certain type of person you initially took them to be. You think Levin is this socially-awkward, quiet type that you kinda feel sorry for while cheering him on, and then he gets really critical of the peasants and that just seems sorta uncalled for. Vronksy seems like the knight in shining armor type, but then you find out he’s in debt and tries to off himself because he just can’t deal. No one’s perfect, I guess.
- On the same note, I don’t particularly like any of the characters. Most of us know how the story ends, so I guess I keep reading just to see how it gets there. It is like a soap opera, but a demure, high-collared one.