From the author that wrote War and Peace: another novel called Anna Karenina

High hopes are not meant for this novel; it’s misogynistic and a long read. Non-spoiler review

By: Emily Cardinal, Staff Writer

Leo Tolstoy, the author of War and Peace, published Anna Karenina in two different sets. The novel was published in 1875 and 1877. Taking place in Russia in 1874, the story explores the life of a twenty-seven-year-old women, Anna Karenina. Several other characters are also described and have chapters from their points of view.

War and Peace and Anna Karenina are two very different novels (though Tolstoy didn’t consider War and Peace a novel; he thought a novel wasn’t based on length). War and Peace explores the Napoleonic Wars, several wars that took place in Europe. Meanwhile, Anna Karenina explores the scandal of a cheating wife. This is a huge change of focus, which might explain the shabby story of Anna Karenina.

Anna Karenina is a very long book, and not just in length. There are chapters told from several character’s point of views. This, along with Tolstoy’s apparent need to explain philosophy, makes the story drag. There are many descriptions and seemingly unimportant text added that doesn’t help further the story at all. A review was left on Goodreads by someone going by the name Sammy, and the reader says, “Leo Tolstoy really enjoys tangents. Constantly drifting away from the point of the book to go off on three-page rants on farming methods, political policies and elections, or philosophical discussion on God.” The entire story felt like Tolstoy wanted it to be more or handle deeper discussions than it was written to. This book was supposed to be about a wife cheating on her husband, but very little of the book appears to be about that.

Initially, it takes a while for Anna to appear in the story. This was an intriguing way to start since she is obviously the main character (her name is the title). It was an interesting choice to introduce other characters and develop the setting before Anna ever arrives to the scene.

One of the biggest issues in this novel is that none of the characters are very likeable. At the beginning Anna is easy to sympathize with, but that quickly changes when she returns home from her trip where she met her soon-to-be-lover, Vronsky. After the flirting and the way they clicked, Anna was a little upset when she returned home and saw how unhappy she was with the life she had. This too, is understandable, until she finds her eight-year-old son utterly “disappointing”. It’s very hard to garner sympathy for a parent that dislikes their child. Though Anna was depressed and unhappy, maybe her feelings were typical for someone in her situation. Either way, it felt out of character for someone chasing love to not love their own child. What made it worse was her joy later in the story when she got pregnant with Vronsky’s child. There was one character that I thought was kind and intriguing, but after learning he was a thirty-two-year-old man trying to propose to an eighteen-year-old girl, those opinions changed.

Though one thing I did like and what Leo Tolstoy did do well was showing different ways that women were oppressed in Russia. There are chapters showing a woman who is stuck trying to find marriage, others stuck in their unhappy marriage, and women stuck in gender roles as a whole. Tolstoy was showing different situations but in all of them were realistic ways (for that time) that woman were stuck in certain roles. Despite all this, I feel like Tolstoy still showed these women as weak. Anna broke down in public over Vronsky and another character Kitty, was “sick” with heartbreak. He could’ve made powerful woman, but by trying to point out the unfair stereotypes he traps the women into them.

Despite not liking the characters and the way the story shifts from the main focus, it is an interesting read. Some of the side stories were very intriguing and the way in which the characters interact was very well written. Reading this shows you every story in its whole, which is both good and bad. As of this moment, I haven’t finished reading it. I plan to continue for the sole reason that it is written beautifully and shows you every aspect of Russian life. There is also a movie they made (which I also plan to watch).