The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy (Reviewed by WC)

Anna KareninaPublisher:  Vintage Books
Release Date:  October 2012, First Published 1863
Pages:  964

About the Book:  Leo Tolstoy’s classic story of doomed love is one of the most admired novels in world literature. Generations of readers have been enthralled by his magnificent heroine, the unhappily married Anna Karenina, and her tragic affair with dashing Count Vronsky.

In their world frivolous liaisons are commonplace, but Anna and Vronsky’s consuming passion makes them a target for scorn and leads to Anna’s increasing isolation. The heartbreaking trajectory of their relationship contrasts sharply with the colorful swirl of friends and family members who surround them, especially the newlyweds Kitty and Levin, who forge a touching bond as they struggle to make a life together. Anna Karenina is a masterpiece not only because of the unforgettable woman at its core and the stark drama of her fate, but also because it explores and illuminates the deepest questions about how to live a fulfilled life.
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

WC's Review:  This is a classic story of adultery when adultery was adultery, when it had earthly consequences, told by a classic storyteller. It is a classic tragedy of marriage turned sour and clandestine romance set in late nineteenth century Russia, principally in St Petersburg and Moscow, and including the rustic countryside.

The tale features two beautiful women intertwined with three resourceful gentlemen. Anna Karenina is a heroine caught in a nondescript union with Karenin who finds himself increasingly disenchanted with his wife who seeks the charms of a vibrant suitor, the Count Vronsky, with whom she absconds, leaving her adored son behind. It is only a matter of time before this tryst develops a bitter taste.

Kitty, heroine as well, finds herself jilted in her courtship with Vronsky before he buckles under the charms of Anna. Kitty settles for the love of Levin who suffered an earlier rebuff from her, she then hoping for the hand of the Count.

Tolstoy loves to detail frivolous city life with many interesting, and sometimes delightful, secondary characters, many as relatives, juxtaposed with the meaningful country life of hard working peasants, who display a more meaningful relationship with life.

Tolstoy delves into the mind and soul of Levin at length, transforming him into the true hero of this true classic.  It is through Levin that Tolstoy develops a personal relationship with God.  Levin comes to the realization that he cannot be a complete person until he accepts this wisdom of Jesus Christ in his heart.  

About Leo Tolstoy:  Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy(Russian: Лев Николаевич Толстой; commonly Leo Tolstoy in Anglophone countries) was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist fiction. Many consider Tolstoy to have been one of the world's greatest novelists. Tolstoy is equally known for his complicated and paradoxical persona and for his extreme moralistic and ascetic views, which he adopted after a moral crisis and spiritual awakening in the 1870s, after which he also became noted as a moral thinker and social reformer.

His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him in later life to become a fervent Christian anarchist and anarcho-pacifist. His ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You, were to have a profound impact on such pivotal twentieth-century figures as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Leo Tolstoy