Book List 2012 · Book Review · Leo Tolstoy

Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

When I first picked this book up I thought it would be a task to get through it. And while it is incredibly long and the story slightly slow, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my first impression of Anna Karenina had been wrong.

The eponymous Anna Karenina is one of the loveliest and most charming women in Russia. There are very few people who can remain unmoved by her. She is the central figure that holds together the different stories and characters in this book. While part of the story does focus on Anna Karenina’s immediate family situation, another part of the story focuses on Oblonsky, Anna’s brother, and his wife, Dolly. Another part of the story describes the predicament that Kitty, Dolly’s sister, and Levin, Oblonsky’s close friend face. The novel, Anna Karenina, revolves around these characters, the issues they face with their families and the situations they create. The very first sentence of this novel gives us a hint of what the entire book is about.

“All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

I’m a little hesitant to discuss the story of this novel beyond saying this much as I have a tendency to give away too much. Honestly though, I feel that Anna Karenina is more than just a story. In fact, what I really liked about it was the style in which it was written, the detailed thought process of the characters, and the vivid descriptions of Russian society in the 1870s.

The characters in this novel are annoyingly lifelike and real. At times this was frustrating because they behaved so unpredictably from how you’d expect book characters to behave! But this is really an accomplishment on Tolstoy’s part to have been able to create such characters and breathe life into what would otherwise have been a terrifyingly thick book with a torturously dull story.

I found that I enjoyed reading this book in bite sized reading sessions. I genuinely relished reading Anna Karenina. If you’d like to explore Russian literature, Tolstoy, or perhaps a fascinating tour of the different perspectives in certain social situations, I think Anna Karenina would be a good choice.


4 thoughts on “Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

  1. I just finished the book recently too. I enjoyed it quite a lot. I was sorry for Anna but Levin really made the book marvelous for me. He was so interesting and honest and and ever striving to understand.


    1. I found the parts concerning Anna very frustrating. Levin’s part in the story redeemed this book, for me. And although Oblonsky wasn’t exactly a saint, I liked the parts about him and Dolly as well.


  2. I see you wrote about this in October, but I just found your blog. I read AK in November (I think), and I fell in love with Tolstoy. I just think he revealed himself through Levin, and Levin was my favorite character. Dolly was a close second.


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