Review: Anna Karenina by Tolstoy

Anna Karenina, or Anna, as I have been affectionately referring to the novel since beginning it, has become one of my favourite books. It’s up there in the top 3 and I’d definitely take it with me to be marooned on a desert island. Reading it is like watching the world roll by. You get a sense of real life passing, not because of the plot pushing it along, but rather despite the ‘plot’. There’s no sense of authorial prodding at any point. To call the characters ‘characters’ seems wrong. They are so fully developed and complex, really they’re living and breathing, they have souls. You identify with them. Reading about them feels like catching up with old friends.

I think a lot of this has to do with the way Tolstoy wrote Anna. The novel is in third limited but not from one character’s point of view. Not even from two or three. I think, at some point, you see the world from all seven major characters. It might even be more than that. In fact, it’s definitely more than that – I remember getting snippet’s of a dog’s point of view in places. You’d think all this jumping about from one head to another would become confusing or jarring but it never does. It feels natural. Occasionally you’ll want to be in someone else’s head but that always dissipates in minutes as you read.

In fact, what I really loved about Anna was how readable it was. Usually I can’t read a book for longer than an hour at a time. I get fidgety, I guess, and want to remind myself of the real world. This wasn’t the case with Anna. I think this is the only book I’ve ever read that called to me to read it just because it was enjoyable to read. Some books make you read them because of the surging plot and cliffhangers but this isn’t the case with Anna. It’s just a lovely experience: reading it.

So, I guess it’s no surprise that I was sad to finish Anna. With most books the ending is a bittersweet moment – there’s a sense of joy and satisfaction at the ending, as well as the sadness that there’s no more. With Anna, however, I didn’t really get that. It’s not that the ending isn’t good – it is – it’s more that the sadness outweighed everything else.

In saying that, I never felt as emotionally involved in Anna as I do with Captain Corelli. Louis de Bernieres’ novel, for me, is always an emotional roller-coaster – I always cry all through Pelagia’s Lament and laugh through a lot of the rest of the book. Even though there is tragedy in Anna, it doesn’t hit you in the same way. This is the only reason Anna hasn’t replaced Captain Corelli as my favourite novel. But it does make Anna more readable. You can’t read Captain Corellu non-stop – it’s too intense.

Anna has a heart and a soul and is a real joy to read/ It’s not so much that you can’t put it down, it’s more you just don’t want to. I think we all know whether or not I’d recommend this one. So here’s a link:


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