Anna Karenina Read Along Parts 1 & 2

I would not commit myself yet as to whether I enjoyed this book or not…  I have a feeling that at the end, I would be ready to commit murder of the highest scale (well, I might make an exception for Kitty, Levin, and Prince Shcherbatskaya… and maybe, even Karenin, for reasons I’ll explain below).

As this is Post #1 and we’ve only read the first quarter of the book, I’m going to try to limit my post here by highlighting 2-3 points on the uppermost of my mind after reading parts 1 & 2.

I don’t think I’ve included many spoilers here, if at all.  Maybe in my responses to the Discussion Qs but just beware there may be lots of hints, rather than actual spoilers.

Of Stiva:

I just couldn’t believe that I was incited to violence right from the first page!  Even before I found out the full story, I wanted to slap him silly!  A few pages in, I could feel my fingers reaching towards his neck and squeeze…

 “Yes, she won’t forgive me, and she can’t forgive me.  And the most awful thing about it is that it’s all my fault – all my fault, though I’m not to blame.  That’s the point of the whole situation,” he reflected.

Of Anna:

Like everybody else (by this I meant, everybody in the book), in the beginning, I loved her.  She appears to be someone whom everyone would love.  However, the tide quickly turned as I just couldn’t understand the shape of her ‘love’.  To me, it sounded a lot more like obsession than love.

Of Karenin:

Ah, I’m not quite sure if this is right but I feel that most of the time we see him from Anna’s perspective and as Anna’s completely bias, I couldn’t trust her pictures of him. All right, so he may be a fool and most unattractive but, in any case, he is stil human.  He, like everyone else, has feelings.  Strong feelings which he denies & buries deep – emotionally crippled?  My heart goes out to him and my maternal instict is roused…  Does anyone feel this way at all?  Or am I the Fool?

Discussion Qs:

1. Have you ever read this book before? What did you think of it? What have you heard about it? Is there anything that you are especially eager or reluctant to encounter in Anna Karenina? What version of this book are you reading? Who is the translator?

I’ve never read this book before.  Have never been really interested in the story as I’m usually never interested in any infidelities in stories – this is a really big issue for me and therefore, I generally avoid it in my readings.  I’d only read it to tick the box off a list 😉  I’m reading a version downloaded off Project Gutenberg; it’s translated by Constance Garnett.

2. Have you encountered anything uniquely Russian about this novel or could it have taken place in America?

Um, this is a toughie as I’ve not read many Russian novels before, AK being only my second one.  My first one was Doctor Zhivago where I found dialogues to be of a certain cadence which is not quite true of AK.  The dialogues in AK seems to be more ‘normal’ to me than those in Zhivago.  I’m not sure if I’m explaning myself clearly but it’s the only thing I could think of.

3. What do you think of Stiva? What do you think of his relationship with Dolly? His attitude towards politics?

Excuse my French but he’s a dumb ass who cruises through life, ignoring life’s problems and with blinkers on, he squeezes all possible pleasures from life & others.  Wake up, man, and do the right thing!

4. The open quote of the book is “All happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Is this true?

Yes, it possibly is true.  A happy family means all are right with them but unhappy families may have different issues which drive their unhappiness.

5. Do you get the sense that Anna truly feels guilty about the actions she has taken with Vronsky? If not, why do you think?

I think at the beginning, she felt guilty for having this ‘special’ feelings but then she completely lost herself and swept aside / buried deeply this guilt.  She’s experienced this ‘joy’ and is not willing to lose it at all.

6. Vronsky is a Count with a military background—a very dashing figure of manhood. In what ways is he a worthy and appropriate lover for the passionate Anna Karenina? In what ways does he potentially fall short in this role?

I have to say that I just didn’t listen to anybody’s view of Vronsky but Prince Shcherbatskaya’s.  And Prince Shcherbatskaya called Vronsky, A Dandy (!), so I’ve never actually thought of him as dashing at all.  In fact, I’ve found him distasteful from near the beginning… In light of this, Anna, actually, fall short in my view. :p

7. Society—what it means to be a part of high society or operate successfully in society—is discussed at length in Part Two. What do you feel you have discovered about the way Russian society used to work. How does it seem different from your life today?

We have been blessed, these days, of being able to marry spouses of our own choosings.  To fall in love with whomever we wish (even though, at times, it mayn’t be wise) despite our fortunes!  Regardless of fortunes, most of society will not look kindly to infidelities even when it is discreet.

8. When Kitty tells Varenka at the end of Part Two that she will never marry, do you believe her?

Nope, I’m still hoping for her & Levin to get together :p  (See, I am a romantic after all!)

As it happened, I’ve convinced a few of my girlfriends to join the read along however as none of them blogs, we’re discussing it on FB (very slowly) and so far,

Robyn (AK being her annual re-reads, *shocking!*), in reference to A & V, stated, “i think the whole why / randomness of it is interesting – it is not as though she sacrifices her position for … someone ‘worthy’ or a ‘true love’…. ”

Annie (tried reading AK previously but gave up however is now further into the book than before!), began with a “I too would like a million names and titles to confuse people in my circle, something starting with Princess would be nice” before she started reading! Her post-reading comments;

“Having dutifully read parts 1 & 2 trying to be as unbiased as possible, I am now of stronger opinion that I cannot stand these people. Not any better than the last time although I have gotten further this time round. I feel a compulsion to slap all of them. Should a novel incite such violent tendencies?

Ok rant over. Robyn, i agree that the question of why is interesting. Given that this novel has often been called a great romantic tragedy, i was expecting the romantic leads to at least pull me into their passion, so i can understand, even while not entirely approving of their decisions. However, it seems more like Tolstoy has written a morality tale and shows all characters as despicable, except perhaps Levin and Kitty. I love flawed characters as much as the next reader but it’s gotta make sense and at the moment, almost all the other characters make more sense to me than Anna and Vronsky.”

6 thoughts on “Anna Karenina Read Along Parts 1 & 2

  1. Steph (@FABR_Steph)

    It is so interesting when a character can evoke such feelings. I see that Annie is finding this to be the case as well. I too was beyond angry with Stiva right from the beginning. I guess that human nature is much the same in any time, but I thought that the majority of his characteristics were a problem of the modern society in which we live. Guess not.
    I do share some of your feelings in regards to Karenin. I think that you are quite right about his swallowing his own feeling, but now he is choking on them, whether he realizes it or not.
    Most of the characters in this book are a hot mess, especially in regards to their love life. I wonder how much Tolstoy’s train-wreck of a marriage came into play in this novel. I imagine quite a bit.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for including your friends.

    1. Tien Post author

      Isn’t it very interesting how Stiva is so very much liked by everyone (ie. characters) and yet, each one of us would like to, at least, slap him?

      re: Tolstoy, I don’t know very much about him so thanks for that point, I’d have to find out a bit more about that. I’d like to know which part/s of the novel reflected his experience in marriage.

  2. aobibliophile™

    i’ve been reading everyone’s take on the first two parts and it’s amazing how much some of the characters like Stiva, Anna, Karenin, Vronsky, Kitty and Levin have affected us in one way or another and we’re not even half way yet with the read along! i bet things will get more fired up as we progress further.
    thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    1. Tien Post author

      I reckon this is a love or hate book with no in between 🙂

      We’ll probably get fired up as well ha ha ha

  3. Lu

    I agree with you about Anna and Vronsky. I think they have more of a lust/obsession thing going on, than love!

    1. Tien Post author

      Thanks, Lu – always happy to have support for my thoughts 😉

      Wonder though if anyone thinks it’s ‘true love’ – it just sounds ‘truly’ unhealthy!


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