A surprisingly engaging classic, especially on audio
Title: Anna Karenina
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Translator: Louise & Aylmer Maude
Narrator: David Horovitch
Genre: Fiction / Classic
First published: 1878
Edition: Audio & Paperback, published by Vintage Classics in 2017
Acclaimed by many as the world’s greatest novel, Anna Karenina provides a vast panorama of contemporary life in Russia and of humanity in general. In it Tolstoy uses his intense imaginative insight to create some of the most memorable characters in literature. Anna is a sophisticated woman who abandons her empty existence as the wife of Karenin and turns to Count Vronsky to fulfil her passionate nature – with tragic consequences. Levin is a reflection of Tolstoy himself, often expressing the author’s own views and convictions.
All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
This may well be one of the biggest achievements and surprises of this year. I started off trying to read this in paperback and I struggled to get into it. Switching to audio was a gamechanger. David Horovitch does a fantastic job narrating this sweeping book and I fell in love with it.
Of course the book concentrates partly on Anna, who is a fascinating, but tragic, character. Her choices brought to mind the saying: You made your bed, now lie in it. But this novel is not only about Anna. In fact, it shows us the lives of a variety of characters, all connected to each other in one way or another. The characters, especially Anna and Levin. Levin was probably my favourite character, which is interesting as he is supposed to be a reflection of Tolstoy himself.
Anna clearly had some mental health issues and the way her thought process was represented was very interesting. Yet, she was not the only one having erratic thoughts. Most of the characters were full of self doubt and insecurities. I guess as we all are. Their solutions to their problems were often rather rigorous and I found myself wondering whether that was reflection of the times Tolstoy wrote this novel in.
What definitely was a reflection of the times the novel was written, were the descriptions of the countryside and city alike, of politics and social situations, of nobility as well as the peasant class as seen from the nobility’s eyes. It questioned morals and class and I found that particularly interesting. Some of the commentary would still be relevant today. There were definitely some parallels with today’s society.
The novel did drag a bit towards the end, and I am not sure I quite loved the religious element at the end, but up until then I had thoroughly enjoyed it. I suppose it was just about 100 pages too long. However, I am far less scared of picking up big classics in the future and I do feel audio can really make the difference if the narrator is a good one. This one was included in my Audible subscription and if it is in yours, I would highly recommend it.
6 out of 7 stars