Has there been a film version?
Two major ones; in 1935 starring Greta Garbo, and in 1997 starring Sophie Marceau.
Who are the important characters?
Anna Arkadyevna Karenina – an aristocratic lady full of passion
Count Alexei (Alyosha) Vronsky – a military man who loves to flirt with women
Konstantin Dmitrich (Kostya) Levin – a country man who owns and runs a large farm
Princess Ekaterina Schcherbatsky (Kitty) – the youngest daughter of one of the Princes
Prince Stepan Arkadyich (Stiva) Oblonsky – a womanizing prince, Anna’s brother
Princess Darya Alexandrovna (Dolly) Oblonsky – the eldest daughter of the Schcherbatsky’s and Stiva’s wife
Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin – Anna’s husband, a government official
Nikolai Dmitrich Levin – Levin’s brother, a radical
Sergei Ivanovich Koznyshev – the Levins’ half-brother, a political writer
Countess Lydia Ivanovna – a society woman who is dedicated to pious hypocritical religion
What’s it about?
Well – the surface stories are stories about love and relationships. There is Anna and Vronsky – the adulterous and passionate couple. There is Levin and Kitty, the love of the hopeless. There is Stiva and Dolly, the couple who fight against age and adultery. And all the relationships between brothers and sisters, parents and children, and man and God.
But there are also examinations about one’s ability to be honest – whether it’s with others or yourself. There’s the questions and search for truth and God, what is right and what is correct in society. And overall it’s a story of tragedy set against joy.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
Because it’s deep, thoughtful, unpretentious, well-written, applicable to anyone and an excellent read.
Do I recommend you read this book?
Yes, very highly. But I’d buy it and not try and check it out from the library and blast through it, like I did.
How did this book make my list?
It’s “Anna Karenina.” Come on, how could it not?
Has it won any awards?
I couldn’t find any record of formal awards, if you find any please let me know. However, it was voted by 125 modern authors to be the undisputed greatest novel ever written.
“He knew she was there by the joy and fear that overwhelmed his heart…Everything was lit up by her. She was the smile that brightened everything around.” – p 28
“He had said the very thing that her soul desired but that her reason feared.” – p 103
“The carousing at the regimental commander’s went on for a long time. They drank a lot.” – p 309
“But that grief and this joy were equally outside all ordinary circumstances of life, were like holes in this ordinary life, through which something higher showed.” – p 713
I recommend the translation I read – by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
When I pick up a book such as this, over 800 pages and historically and globally famous – I always doubt my ability as a reader to understand anything the author wanted to convey to me. I’m such a plot oriented person that it takes conscious reading and re-reading of whatever it is to really grasp subtext and themes and styles and the like. But with this novel, Tolstoy says it all so simply, yet beautifully, that you can’t fail to grasp what he’s trying to work out in his story. He paints an amazing contrast between three romantic relationships and uses them to examine different aspects of love. He masterfully weaves in the search for truth and self-purpose. And he includes such details that in any other book by any other author would seem so superfluous and would drag the story down to a wallowing halt. Every sentence, while maybe not moving the plot along, brings life and depth to the story and its characters. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.