A review by shenoyreads
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy


Rating -5 🌟

"All happy families are alike ; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"

Tolstoy's Anna Karenina starts with one of the most brilliant opening lines ever. The story, as indicated in its opening lines deals with the struggles that three possibly not so happy families are grappling with in their own ways. Anna Karenina is definitely one of the main protagonist of this story and probably very well known to any reader even if they haven't read the book is her story of dealing with unhappiness in her marriage with Alexei Karenin and falling in love with young Count Vronsky to start an adulterous love affair that startles 19th century Russian society.

However, if you go on expecting the story only to follow Anna, then brace yourselves as Tolstoy deals with two more couples, Princess Oblonsky who has to deal with Prince Stiva Oblonsky's (Anna's brother) frivolous and often hedonistic attitudes and on the opposite tangent we get a look into the lives of Konstantin Levin, a landowner who likes to live a simple life in the country side and wishes to marry Kitty Shcherbatsky with whom he is in love with. 

I don't think any one summary can encompass all the plot lines, all the characters journeys or even all the themes and discussions that Tolstoy brings to this epic novel. 

Tolstoy discusses heavy handed topics such as agricultural economy, philosophical debates, political changes, the surge of modern life and capitalism, death , adultery and it's sociological implications and of course wraps this all within the characters struggling to find the meaning of life, love, faith within their little worlds. 

After learning about Tolstoy and his views and the philosophies that he has entered into this work that may seem like a cautionary tale of how love and life without virtue and devoid of faith will not lead to happiness, I would agree with a reviewer who said, "Tolstoy imbues the story with morals without being moralistic".

On the other hand, the omniscient voice of the narrator slips so easily into each characters mind, that these characters seem relatable to this day despite this book being set in 19th century Russia. Tolstoy shows such nuanced ideas of love, relationship, the unit of family and the role of the spouses that it does not come off as very fictional but rather a knowledge gained from maturity as one experiences life and relationships. 

Though I cannot compare the way a woman's (Anna and the other women in the story) perspective has been written in this book with contemporary writing who are much more 'woke' for a lack of a better word, Tolstoy does not judge or condemn Anna for her choices but rather some of the insights he gives us into her thoughts, her opinions and also the way society's treatment of her affects her are very realistic and could be called way ahead of his time. 

"The inequality of spouses, in his opinion,consisted in the fact that the unfaithfulness of a wife and the unfaithfulness of a husband were punished unequally by the law and public opinion", one of the character expresses his opinion thus. This thought is very clear by the way Anna is treated as opposed to Vronsky or even as Stiva ( who also cheats on his wife) is treated. 

Anna's character is very unique and really stands out. One other character who will probably win everyone's hearts is Levin ( who is a character based on Tolstoy to some extent and who is the other end of the spectrum/ opposite to Anna's character). 

I wondered for some time why I hadn't read the book earlier and yes while 8 parts with more than 800 pages may seem daunting, I realised once I picked up the book that it was very easy to read and made me realise that my interpretation and thoughts on the book are as such because I read it now which seemed to me to be the right time. 

This book has revived my interest and love for classics all over again and I am very eager to read from Tolstoy and even other Russian Classic writers more in the future. 

" I think...if there are as many minds as there are men, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts"

"Everything is finished....I have nothing but you. Remember that"
               - Anna, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy