I finally finished Anna Karenina!

So…I thought this was a good book.  But…I don’t understand why it’s a “classic.”  I can see a variety of ways in which it might be, but I miss having an English teacher to explain things to me.  I’m a passive reader.  I don’t question or delve into works like I was forced to in high school.  Even watching TV or movies, I tend to be more interested (and very easily swayed) by reading others’ reviews online, rather than coming up with my own opinion.  And I don’t even know how I feel about that.  Harrumph.

I read this book because I thought I should, but it was a very difficult, long process, that was probably unnecessary.  There’s enough here to fodder 3 seasons of a historical TV series, a la Downton Abbey.  I’m sure there was more importance to it than the romantic relationships (all the stuff about peasants, important people, volunteers in the war, government posts – I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit I could barely follow it).

My recap:

Anna is Oblonsky’s sister.  She convinces his wife to stay with him after he cheated on her.  He’s drunk and jolly most of the time, but a superficial person all around.  Anna is married to the very stoic, stern Alexei and they have a son who she loves dearly.

Vronsky is uber bachelor, who was stringing along Kitty, Oblonsky’s sister-in-law.  Then he totally falls for Anna while Kitty and her parents are expecting a proposal.  Kitty turns down Levin’s proposal because she’s expecting Vronsky’s that never comes.

Levin nurses his wounds out in the country hating on the city and aristrocracy, while Vronsky knocks up Anna and they have to run away from the city they love.  They are increasingly unhappy, both assuming the worst in the other and not verbalizing any real feelings.  She’s resentful and jealous because she can’t go out in society since she left her husband, which is a big no-no in Russia at this time (the 1800s?).

Divorce sounds like a new thing, and Alexei won’t grant one.  He also won’t let Anna see her kid.  This drives her insane to the point of suicide.  Except that wasn’t exactly it.  She threw herself in front of a train to get back at Vronsky.  Juvenile.

Levin and Kitty eventually get married, have a kid, and live happily ever after.  The end.


What I thought about the characters:

  • Anna Karenina – She entered the story as this independent, beautiful, worldly, self-assured force of nature.  I thought I was going to love her.  And then she fell in love with an immature twat and spiraled out of control.  Her relationship with Vronsky was like most people’s super possessive, immature failed high school relationship.  The boyfriend that won’t let you wear short skirts unless he’s hanging out with you.  She turned into a clingy, jealous, immature biddy.  We’ve all been there.  I just haven’t since I was 16.  Joking aside, I wondered as I read if she had postpartum depression and then I remembered when this was written and realized that probably wasn’t a “thing.”  The first person writing of her in the last few chapters was very insightful to that of someone in a deep depression, I thought.

But even though she knew it was her own ruin, she could not restrain herself, could not keep herself from proving to him that he was wrong, could not give way to him.

  • Vronsky – Immature twat, as I said above.  Sorry, selfish, immature twat.  Not that she made it easy, but overall he just seemed like a tool.  Wanting to do everything but hang out with her, only concerned with appearances (of his painting, horse racing, jobs, etc.).  Although he did give up bachelor life for her, so I guess he couldn’t have ONLY been concerned with appearances.  Hrmmm.  I still don’t like him.
  • Oblonsky – He’s everybody’s slightly drunk, inappropriate uncle at Thanksgiving.  Or every skeezy, white, male in management who hits on his secretary.
  • Alexei Karenin – What a weirdo.  I don’t want my wife, but you can’t have her, and now I’m going to form some sort of strange, religious threesome and not listen to reason.  Poor Seryozha.
  • Levin – God, it must be fucking exhausting to be in this guy’s head.  Just. stop. thinking.  Seriously.  Just accept your life and stop mulling over the meaning of every little grain of fucking rice.  I liked him in the first half, admired his feelings for Kitty.  Could relate to him throwing himself into work after she rejected him.  Was impressed by his concern and respect for the peasants.  Great, good guy, that Levin is!  And then he got married and spent the second half in turmoil over the meaning of everything.  It was exhausting.
  • Kitty – Immature, naive twat.