Thursday, March 18, 2010
Anna Karenina: Halfway-through Review
I intended to read Anna Karenina for a book club I really want to join, but I started the book far too late, and although the meeting has passed, I am finishing the book. My partner says it's a terrible book, but I'm actually finding a lot to like. I'll tell you what I think about it, but have you read it? Did you like it/hate it/spend a lot of time thinking but never come to a conclusion?
I read Tolstoy's War and Peace in college, and I really hated it. At the end of the semester, I still had 50 pages left to go, and you know what? The slip of paper I used as a bookmark is still sitting in the book, 50 pages from the end.
In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy does still meander off-course and from topic to topic, some of the dialogue is nonsensical (a character will say one thing, and the character responding will say something on a completely different topic), and there are several storylines. However, since that college course, I've discovered a fondness for plots that involve multiple storylines and characters connected by a single character or a few characters, or even connected only by a single event; stories that show the threads of commonality between people everywhere. There are fewer characters and fewer storylines in Anna Karenina than in War and Peace, so it's easier to keep track of them, and they are also more interesting. I've also developed a respect for Tolstoy's way of diverging from the plot to tell the reader what he thinks about humanity or what other people think about life. It's a truly fascinating read, and I don't regret all the time it will take to read this giant of a book.
I hope I have time after finishing Anna Karenina to read the next book that book club is reading!