Review: Anna Karenina (the book)

Ok, so I’m late to the party.  Really late.  Like 134 years late.But with all the hoopla surrounding the new film adaptation starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law, I decided I wanted to read the book first.After all, it is “the greatest novel of all time” according to Time magazine.


If you haven’t read this heavyweight Russian classic by Leo Tolstoy, here’s what you’re missing.
Anna Karenina isn’t the only character in the novel, but she leads the cast for memorability.  In fact, all the characters are deeply layered, complex, beautiful and messy, but never heavy-handed.  There’s something for every reader to identify with here.
Despite the setting in Imperial Russia, there are plenty of timeless themes, too.  Family, love, obsession, selflessness, jealousy, class structure, nature, faith – pretty much anything to do with life.  Tolstoy uses grand brushstrokes and fine detail to weave them all in.
Here’s what you’re not missing, though.
Anna Karenina is long.  Very long.  And (dare I say it?) a little boring.  While the book shows an interesting picture of tsarist Russia, it often gets bogged down in details which would only interest its original readers or die-hard scholars.
It’s also a classic, which means as a reader you’ll be dealing with classic lit style.  We’ve become used to quick, tight writing that puts the reader in the scene rather than lofty, rambling omniscient point of view.

In summary, if you can skim and handle classic writing style, Anna Karenina is worth the read.  But if you are a newcomer to classics, better start with something less daunting first.

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