I have wanted to read this novel for years and considering how highly touted it has been I should have known better. I have always had a soft spot for Russia, except apparently their writers (well Tolstoy at least). Another thing I have come to realize? Realism writing equates to terribly
boring passages that add nothing to the story and make you want to poke your eyes out.
With that said, going into the novel I really had somehow avoided knowing what
exactly Anna Karenina was about. Well that may be because the book manages to jump around so much that even while reading it can be difficult to grasp what exactly is the purpose of the book. The title, for one, is completely misleading. Anna is by FAR the most interesting character in the book but she is certainly not the only focus. You will read page after page of the book, which results in adding nothing to the story, and you will sit and wonder where is Anna? Why can we not just follow her everywhere? PLEASE? The controversy that stems from Anna and Vronsky is just ridiculous and outdated for modern readers. With all the tout, I expected something more than just divorce/mistress drama. But all the stars this book is receiving is due to Anna and Vronsky, no one else.
The most utterly boring characters in the book must be Levin (oh please, can we talk about farming MORE?!? Oh let's, it'll only take about 20 more pages then we'll have a brief break), Stiva (Anna's brother) is simply boring and then Alexei (the other one...Anna's husband) just goes on and on and you just want him to decide something and stop victimizing himself. Did I mention that we get to be inside all of the main characters' every thought and action when they are the focus? Not only do we have to "listen" to Levin talk about farming we then have to read his inner dialogue about it for paragraphs at a time. *sigh*
I spent a large portion of the book waiting for something BIG to happen. I kept thinking it has to be right around the corner or the book couldn’t possibly be this long. Nope, the most disturbing thing that happens is at the very end of the second to last part, and yes it involves Anna. Then the last part is largely focused on Levin and not Vronsky, who SHOULD be the focus because he just lost Anna to suicide! But he is barely mentioned, we are essentially only being told he went to war. Really Tolstoy? You name the novel after the character that DIES and her lover, the most important person in the book to her is barely mentioned after her death? Piss poor writing move.
This book could be shorter and nothing would be missed, even if you removed all of Levin and Kitty (terribly boring couple, especially in contrast to Anna and Vronksy). After finishing the book I read summaries of the different parts and I must say, had I just read the summary I would not have been missing much more than having read 817 pages. Great literature? No, just a long-winded Russian guy that received notoriety from other writers and now he will just not go away.