Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina startled the world with its powerful portrayal of the human need for love and happiness weighed against the rigid demands of society. Its heroine, the sensual, rebellious Anna, renounces a respectable yet stifling marriage for an extramarital affair that offers a tast of passion even as it ensnares her in a trap for destruction. Her story contrasts with that of Levin, a young self-doubting agnostic who takes a different path to fulfillment and finds faith and marital bliss in an age of repression.
Considered the greatest novel of the nineteenth century, Anna Karenina has been called Tolstoy's spiritual autobiography. Anna and Levin personify his lifelong struggle to reconcile his physical desires and intellectual ideals in order to lead a more meaningful existence. His program for abstinence and nonviolence, based on a personal interpretation of the Gospels, made him one of the world's most venerated teachers.
Like many people who begin reading Anna Karenina, I was intimidated by the size of the novel. As Im a slow reader, I took it at my own pace. Its 900+ pages took me just under 2 months to read.
Now that the story is over, I miss my window into Tolstoys world. I loved the array of characters in this novel and while I found that I identified with certain characters more than others, I think theres something for everyone in one story line or another. I did find that there were parts of the novel that bored me, such as Levins confusion at the election process and the hunting trip that took place in the later part of the book. However, I was captivated by Levins struggle to find meaning in life and his consideration of what it means to have morals without religion.
I enjoyed getting into Annas head, but also appreciated understanding the feelings of her husband as well as her lover. Tolstoys ability to write from different perspectives and opposing points of view, male and female, was my favorite aspect of the book.
Oblonsky was, without question, my favorite character. You meet him right away, and though hes not always a key player in the novel, Anna and Levins lives always intertwined with Oblonsky just enough to leave me wanting more. His character is larger than life, and one I will keep with me as a literary favorite.