Anna Karenina (Oprah #5)
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Some people say Anna Karenina is the single greatest novel ever written, which makes about as much sense to me as trying to determine the world's greatest color. But there is no doubt that Anna Karenina, generally considered Tolstoy's best book, is definitely one ripping great read. Anna, miserable in her loveless marriage, does the barely thinkable and succumbs to her desires for the dashing Vronsky. I don't want to give away the ending, but I will say that 19th-century Russia doesn't take well to that sort of thing.

Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel's seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness. While previous versions have softened the robust, and sometimes shocking, quality of Tolstoy's writing, Pevear and Volokhonsky have produced a translation true to his powerful voice. This award-winning team's authoritative edition also includes an illuminating introduction and explanatory notes. Beautiful, vigorous, and eminently readable, this Anna Karenina will be the definitive text for generations to come.

Customer Reviews:

  • Wonderful, vivid translation
    This will be short, because it's been several years since I read it and I can't be as detailed as I might be about a book I just finished, but I LOVED this translation of 'Anna Karenina.' I had read the Constance Garnett translation in high school (40+ years ago!), and I picked this translation up on a whim when I saw it in a new book shop. I could hardly believe it was the same novel! So vivid, so poignant, and just plain wonderful. I always knew this was a good piece of fiction; the Pevear and Volokhonsky version made me realize it is one of the greatest novels ever written. This is certainly one of the best books I have read in the past ten years....more info
  • First I read War and Peace, then this.
    I loved War and Peace and hated Anna Karenina. I got within 20 pages of finishing the book and gave up in disgust. It's a 200 page novel that drags on for 800+ pages.

    The main character is impossible to care about, and the rest of the characters are in some cases only mildly likable.

    By contrast, the story, historical landscape, and characters of War and Peace held me tight to the last page, and I was sorry it ended.

    Tolstoy's story-telling technique is similar in both books. He puts you on the ground in the middle of the moment to moment action and lets the outline of the story emerge, much as it would in real life. That worked well for me in War and Peace and failed in Anna Karenina.

    The structural problem with Anna Karenina is that the story is too small and lurid to be interesting beyond a couple of hundred pages. A lot of the narrative was irrelevant to the main plot, and the rest was like reading some of the more dreary posts on the Craigslist Marriage and Long Term Relationships forum--a lot of drama that's hard to care about.

    Stuffing Tolstoy's story-telling style into this story was like asking Beethoven to craft a three-minute song for someone to sing on American Idol....more info
  • Anna Karenina
    The translation is excellent. The book is good but overrated (of course, my female friends disagree). I thought it began to drag on after page 500, where the book should of ended (so I removed a star).

    Overall the book is very much like a soap opera. There is much personal conflict, affairs, jealousy, etc. It is a little slow moving, but very well written (of course). ...more info
  • Just the tale for a winter vacation
    What a marvelous translation this is! We get a story that is faintly old-fashioned, very slightly foreign--as though your grandmother, born abroad but having lived in the U.S. for years and retaining the merest tinge of an accent, were telling you a long story about family members you've never met--and yet intimate and delightfully gossipy, all at the same time. No wonder it's a beloved classic; this book tells both its sad story and its happy story clearly and with plenty of feeling. Characters grow and change, dismaying situations occur, and all seems very real. Don't miss this fine book....more info
  • Just watch "The Young and the Restless" or something
    I don't know why everybody thinks this is great literature. If it weren't Tolstoy, everybody would see it for what it is--a soap opera in print. At least the main plot is. I don't know what the point of the subplot with Kitty and Levin is, except to make the book a few hundred pages longer and a lot more boring.

    Seriously, if you want decent literature with similar characters and stories, go read Jane Austen or Vanity Fair....more info
  • "Anna Karenina"...Tolstoy's masterpiece!
    A wonderful story...well told!

    Some potential *SPOILERS* to follow...

    While this book was large and daunting in size, I nonetheless found this tale, (set in mid/late 19th century Russia), fascinating and easy to read. It is the story of the rich and bored (and somewhat insecure) upper crust of Moscow's and St. Petersburg's society. The story starts off somewhat benignly but gradually becomes more involved as the characters become more exposed, showing all too common human frailties and weaknesses. The primary tale is one of an intense, emotional relationship (involving three people), while the secondary story deals with another man's own set of vulnerabilities and shortcomings as he struggles to find himself within the confines of his personal life, his work and his place in society.

    Tolstoy, because of this writing skills, has the ability to make his characters come alive and become indelibly etched in the readers' psyche (in mine at least), and even more impressive is the fact, that little appears to have been lost by the effects of translation. I found myself (even without the book) frequently reflecting on the ever changing relationships between main characters (Anna, her lover Vronsky and her husband Alexie on one hand and Levin, Kitty, Stepan, and Dolly on the other).

    The only area of this book that I found a little slow was some Tolstoy's philosophical musings (through Levin) towards the end of the novel; however the overall quality of the entire book easily puts it into the "classic" category. 5 Stars.

    P.S. Kudos to both Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky for their incredible translation of this startling work; it's hard to believe that so much of the emotional quality of the original manuscript was retained (and with such easy readability), through this process.

    R. Nicholson...more info
  • a long, long soap opera
    These comments on Anna Karenina are taken from my personal "Education of a Novelist" blog which you can reach by searching the web for "Lew Weinstein's novel writing blog." Please see also my new NYC based legal thriller A Good Conviction.

    Tolstoy is regarded as one of the finest writers of all time, so who am I to say that I found Anna Karenina a less than satisfying read. True, there are some magnificent scenes, such as Vronsky's horse race, but there are also many incredibly dull and interminable passages. Actually, it's one long slow soap opera, but that does explain its success as an Oprah selection. I don't like soap operas and I stopped reading after 400 pages.

    * opening sentence ... "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Great start, from which we know that this is going to be a story about more than one unhappy family.

    * who are the major characters? ... Tolstoy starts with the Oblonskys, Prince Stepan and Princess Darya (Dolly), who are not the main characters, although Stepan was, for me, the most interesting. If you didn't know differently, you might think that Stepan and Dolly are the major characters. When other characters are introduced, it's still not clear who the major characters will be. I suspect this is not a technique which would work in 2007.

    * Karenin is a beautifully developed supporting character, pathetically unable to act in furtherance of his own wishes, motivated only to avoid being embarrassed before his professional and social associates. However, his moments of introspection make us care about him.

    * settings. Tolstoy's descriptions of places are remarkable.

    * character development. The interior monologues are always enjoyable and often quite revealing.
    ...more info
  • Good Story . . . Incredible Characters
    Tolstoy's characters are so real and human that, although I didn't necessarily experience Anna Karenina as a 'page turner,' I nevertheless felt compelled to read twenty or thirty pages every day just to see what everyone was up to. In some parts the story is intense and hard to put down, in a couple of parts it can drag a little bit, but overall this was a pleasant surprise for me - very enjoyable and consistently interesting, especially if you appreciate an emphasis on character and psychological insight. Levin, Anna, Vronsky, and Stepan in particular are some of the most fully realized fictional characters I've ever encountered. The book is long, but there really isn't a lot of fluff - most of it was enjoyable and interesting, and a couple of the scenes were absolutely unforgettable. Great book....more info
  • Let-down ending
    I enjoyed this novel thoroughly, but in the end felt that Anna got the short end of the stick. In Book 8, I expected to see more reactions than Vronsky's and Stiva's. How did Dolly, one of the few to love and keep society with Anna all the way through, feel about the turn of events? What about Karenin or Anna's son? Karenin was an interesting character and I would have liked to have seen more of him beyond the trance scene.

    Maybe this was Tolstoy's way of denying Anna the satisfaction she sought with her last act. Maybe focusing on Levin's struggle to live was a moral decision, meant to steer readers away from Anna's folly. Still, characters like Karenin are so vivid, it seems unfair that they should not be given a final bow....more info
  • Endlessly Fascinating and Spectacular Storytelling
    Tolstoy had talent to spare, and this novel seems to incorporate and display every bit of it. From sumptious parallel storylines through overwhelming set pieces done as well any in all of fiction, this is one sensational novel. The more you enjoy plotting and character, the more you will enjoy how effortlessly Tolstoy deploys his actors and actresses.
    Among many highlights is the great ball scene, easily the finest in an age replete with examples; and the extraordinary pictoral social panorama Tolstoy unfolds at the race track; this later could only have been written by the author of the great battle scenes of War and Peace. Tolstoy's depiction of the train station meeting between the doomed Anna and her lover-to-be Vronsky rises to extraordinary mythic heights, devoid of cheap melodrama through Tolstoy's uncanny sense for fleeting details and his remarkable empathy for the poetics of human interactions.
    Anyone interested in reading more about this most amazing work should first peruse Nabokov's scintillating essay on Anna Karenina. This is available in Essays on Russian Literature, published after Nabokov's death. Taken from his lecture notes from classes given while he was at Cornell, Nabokov offers an eagle-eyed view of details and cross-references generally missed by those unable to read the novel in its original Russian. (The other chapters on Russian literature are equally engrossing, particularly his fabulous essay on Gogol's Dead Souls.) ...more info
  • A True Classic...
    I read this book 2 summers ago and would highly recommend it. It is a beautiful love story with many rich and interesting characters whose lives weave in and out of each other over time. This will be one of those classic books that I will read again and again. A beautiful book for any library....more info
  • Good service
    Took longer than I thought it would but overall, excellent condition and quality. Thank you! ...more info
  • Anna Karenina
    This was a gift but it was easy to find and got here in no time for her birthday. ...more info
  • Penny OConnell
    Mr. Tolstoy had such a unique gift in his description of his characters that you could actually feel their pain and triumphs, even if you could not relate to their idiosyncrasies....more info
  • Great Translation !!!
    Loved the translation and have recently read Chekhovs 5 short novels by the same translators. I'll be looking for more of their work in the future....more info
  • As of yet he greatest novel I've ever read
    A book so profound and finely crafted as this one deserves more than just 5 stars.This book is far beyond anything I've ever read.Anna Karenina even surpasses The Brothers Karamazov as a work of literary perfection.That is all I can dare come to say without writing an entire book on how deeply I feel for this novel...more info
  • A Classic
    I really like this edition of the book; the font is clear and large enough to read without squinting....more info
  • Love, Hate and Beauty-
    Anna Karenina, the story of a twisted love triangle in high Russian society, is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. The way it was written reminds me of a ballet dancer: graceful, poetic and vivid. The characters are unlike anything I've ever experienced, and the story was painted so well, I often felt like I was Anna, Kitty, Levin or Stiva.

    I went into reading Anna Karenina hearing only positive things about it. One of my close friends had recently finished it, and could do nothing but rave about how amazing she thought it was. Only slightly intimidated by the length, I soon found that the book itself was quite an easy read. Unlike other books, where I sometimes have a hard time getting into them at the beginning, I jumped right into Anna Karenina and kept swimming from there.

    One of my favorite things about the book is the way it rotates between different characters points of view. This keeps the reader from getting bored, and the excitement and tension levels up. For example, after reading for a while about what Levin is doing in the country, the next section of the book might start off with what's happening with Alexei Alexandrovich in St. Petersburg.

    I absolutely loved this book. Reading this novel really made me appreciate good literature, and the writing style of Leo Tolstoy. After reading Anna Karenina, I'm now excited to read his other novels, which I've heard, are equally impressive. I recommend to anyone who likes to delve into the inner workings of life, and the relationships of others. Reading Anna Karenina will make you feel like a newly awakened person.
    ...more info
  • Hooray for interest in the classics
    I don't watch Oprah but if her recommendation is what it takes to get people reading, I'm all for it. AK is one of the richest novels I've read. The movie versions have only concentrated on the adultrous affair of the main character. There are so many layers which haven't been explored on tv or the movies. This novel goes into depth about the class system through the eyes of the characters. Yet it never drags and the character themselves have distinct personalities.

    Like most russian novels, it is long and takes a large committment of time. I can only say that there is more enjoyment than watching a dvd of explosion filled Hollywood movies. They have their place but I would push them aside to try a wonderfully perceptive and well written novel....more info
  • Anna Karenina
    Difficult book to read due to the Russian names and having to refer to the footnotes frequently. I enjoyed the book very much, as it is an excellent read....more info
  • Exquisite Art
    This superb novel presents readers with Anna Karenina, the trapped and bored wife of a Russian gentleman who, despite her staid and comfortable life, chooses to toss everything out the window in pursuit of a foppish count. Modern readers may admire her spunk and independence, but in Tolstoy's world, shallow behavior brings consequences, not least in the eyes of high society.

    Tolstoy also sketches a vivid portrait of nineteenth-century Russia, which is expertly conveyed by translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky; many times during the novel I almost felt I'd walked straight into the scenery. The author does a splendid job of exploring the vicissitudes of landowner culture, too, but by no means does he dwell on related polemics. Tolstoy's a lot like Levin, the somewhat autobiographical character: more interested in hunting with his bird dog than in dealing with the more disappointing and materialist world of people. One of my favorite passages entails Tolstoy's elaborate description of the heroine, not as a person, but as a painting. It's as if here, in art, Tolstoy finds true beauty and transcendence.

    The lady's also a bit of a mystery: that is, Tolstoy adroitly (and wisely) refuses to define her motives precisely. Why does she behave in this callous, maddening and self-destructive way? Doesn't she care about the effect on her family? Her vows? Her God? Although Tolstoy does explore ontological themes like God versus rationalism and man versus nature, he shrouds his protagonist in grey. She's well-developed, and the novel hints at her upbringing and rationale, but like Scarlett O'Hara in Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, we're ultimately left throwing up our hands in exasperation as Karenina melts into the bile of her own mistakes.

    At 838 pages, this novel's a whopper: we 21st century folk don't always have (or take) the time to savor something this vast, and for those who'd love to but can't, I recommend checking out Anna Karenina: In Half the Time (Compact Editions). But this translation is a PEN/Book of the Month Club prize winner for a reason, and if you can spare a chapter a day or thereabouts and set your expectations accordingly, you'll be rewarded with a fine literary experience.

    My Titles
    Shadow Fields
    Snooker Glen
    Dasha ...more info
  • Scarlet Letter-esque soap opera of epic proportions
    The opening sentence, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," is one of the best and most memorable parts of this lengthy book, which is reminiscent of the peace parts of War and Peace. The reader soon learns of the trials of a member of one such "unhappy family," Dolly Oblonsky, who has just learned of her husband Steva's affair. The adulterer's sister, Anna Karenina arrives by train to convince her sister-in-law to forgive the roving-eyed philanderer. Karenina, unhappily married, falls in love with Count Vronsky, whose courting of Princess Kitty Shcherbatsky causes the young woman to refuse an offer from the one who loves her, Konstantin Levin. Forced to choose between continued unhappiness with her husband Alexei Karenin, or sacrifice her son Sergei to become Count Vronsky's lover and suffer certain societal shunning, she chooses the latter. As a result, this formerly confident woman becomes depressed, paranoid, with child (a girl, who she can't love), and filled with despair; not necessarily in that order. Both Kitty and Levin go through their own trials but gain marital and familial bliss.

    I enjoyed this book more the first time (years ago) than this second, recent reread, probably because I've gone from single to married with children. As a mother, it's easier to be hard on a woman who would sacrifice her child's happiness for her own. In fact, after she fell into her downward spiral, I was a bit relieved when to reach the end of Part Seven. Of course, being by Tolstoy, the book contains deeper themes than that of society's double standards for the treatment of adulterers versus adulteresses - maybe something more along the lines of "you reap what you sow." If you are an amateur like me, you may want to consult the Cliff Notes to find out what the less obvious ones are (the whole Count Vronsky's steeplechase as a metaphor to his relationship with Anna was lost on me). According to Marianne Sturman, author of the Cliffnotes, "unselfish seeking of goodness obtains a state of grace, whereas a predatory self-assertion results in damnation" is "Tolstoy's basic moral philosophy." In my mind, Sturman's sentence succinctly summarizes the premise of this 800 plus page novel. If I had planned to read only one of the two, I'd choose Anna Karenina and skip War and Peace. But persons interested in history are probably more likely to enjoy the latter, in spite of its many times longer list of characters and increased length over Anna Karenina. Helpful companion read: Tolstoy's Anna Karenina Cliff Notes by Marianne Sturman. Similar: The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. ...more info
  • Too wordy-
    I do think the story line is good. However it is way too wordy. The words were beautifully written but I tired of them & it was boring because of it. I am a quick reader but I had a hard time pushing thru it. ...more info
  • I didn't like this book.
    I won't say "Don't purchase this book," because different people have different tastes. This wasn't my taste. I read this right after reading "Pride and Prejudice," and the period and focus on class and society has me fatigued.

    I appreciate the treatment of important axiological and theoretical issues in the piece by Tolstoy. He discusses social science, philosophy, politics, economics, religion. In that sense, the book was a feast for me. And he treated as many perspectives in which he was versed with great respect. One can't read this book and not walk away more intelligent.

    But my feeling while reading most of this book was one of, "Christ, get on with it." Unfortunately, I was saying this through something I actually appreciated; I appreciated his attention to interpersonal relationships and intrapersonal reasoning about these relationships.

    In short, there are lots of things I appreciate. I appreciate mechanics, but I wouldn't read an 850 page Chilton's manual....more info
  • "Anna Karenina" Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
    An excellent new translation of the Tolstoy classic; Pevear and Volokhonsky have given the novel a fresh, new feeling. I have read other translations several times in the past, but reading this version was a rediscovery of a Tolstoy novel that explores the many facets of love among the Russian artistocracy. ...more info
  • Magnificent
    What can I say? I'm a writer myself and this just makes me want to give up! I usually carp a lot, but not with this book. There is nothing to complain about. All the characters are interesting, albeit depressed. But depression and flaws make for interest. There is plenty of description and none of it gratuitous, Above all, Tolstoy does everything right. The POV changes is genuine, convincing and gracefully done. The translation is great and makes the very long book accessible....more info
  • Worth the effort!
    Tolstoy creates such a vivid portrayal of the twisted morality of Russia's aristocracy of the 19th century. I enjoyed this novel very much and I must give high praise to the translators. This translation is both literary and very readable. To me, even the indepth descriptions of Russian farm life, politics and institutions were all very interesting. I will read their "War and Peace" translation that is suppossed to come out later this year.

    Anna and Levin join the great literary characters that reside in my mind, as living examples of how or how not to live life! ...more info
  • Sense of Self
    "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"

    - Leo Tolstoy from Anna Karenina

    Anna Karenina is a beautifully written novel about three families: the Oblonskys, the Levins, and the Karenins. The first line hints at Tolstoy's own views about happy and unhappy marriages having these same three families also represent three very different societal and physical locations in Russia in addition to distinctly different views on love, loyalty, fidelity, happiness and marital bliss.

    Tolstoy seems to stress that `trusting companionships" are more durable and filled with happiness versus "romantic passion" that bursts with flames and then slowly; leaves ashes rather than a firm, solid foundation to build upon.

    It is like reading a soap opera with all of its twists and turns where the observer is allowed to enter into the homes, the minds and the spirits of its main characters. The moral compass in the book belongs to Levin whose life and courtship of Kitty mirrors much of Leo Tolstoy's own courtship of his wife Sophia. Levin's personality and spiritual quest is Tolstoy's veiled attempt at bringing to life his own spiritual peaks and valleys and the self doubts that plagued him his entire life despite his happy family life and the fact that he too found love in his life and a committed durable marriage. At the other end of the spectrum is Anna, who also because of her individual choices and circumstances, falls into despair.

    It is clear that Tolstoy wants the reader to come away with many messages about the sanctity of marriage, love and family life. He also wants us to be mindful of the choices that we make in life and the affect that these choices have upon ourselves, our station and path in life as well as the affect upon those that we profess to love. Tolstoy also wants us to examine what makes our lives happy or not; and what is at the root of either end result. Levin and Kitty are the happiest married couple; yet Levin faces his own double bind when struggling against domestic bliss and his need for independence on the other hand and how to achieve both (if that is possible) without relinquishing that which made him who he was born to be.

    Anna Karenina and Konstantin Levin are the primary protagonists in the novel and both are rich and fine characters in their own right. Both of them focus on self; one however finds the self to be a nurturer which puts value into life very much as a farmer; while the other views self with despair and as a punisher or destroyer. Both views, diametrically opposed, force the characters on very different paths and lives for themselves. Then there is the dilemma of forgiveness versus vengeance. The very epigram for the novel from Romans states: "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." Yet vengeance upon oneself or others is not up to individuals but God; and yet the characters are haunted about what forgiveness is or isn't and by the hollowness of words versus heartfelt and soulfully reflective actions. The themes of social change in Russia, family life's blessings and virtues and farming (even if it is simply the goodness one puts into life and how one cultivates it and others) dominate the novel's landscape. Trains also play a symbolic importance in the novel and it is odd that Tolstoy himself years after writing Anna Karenina dies himself in a train station after setting off from his home in an emotional cloud.

    Sometimes the names of the characters themselves can be confusing: so a hint to the reader might be to think of each Russian character's name as having three parts: the first name (examples here are for Levin and Kitty) like Konstantin or Ekaterina, a patronymic which is the father's first name accompanied by a suffix which means son of or daughter of like Dmitrich (son of Dmitri) or Alexandrovna (daughter of Alexander) and then the surname like Levin or Shcherbatskaya. Thus the explanations for the Ekaterina Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya (nicknamed Kitty) and Konstantin Dmitrich Levin (Levin).

    I loved the book and its details and the richness of the characterizations as well as the storytelling technique of the great Tolstoy and I have to agree with Tolstoy when he stated, "I am very proud of its architecture-its vaults are joined so that one cannot even notice where the keystone is. " The vaults: "Anna and Levin" are joined with the very first line of the novel and with their focus on themselves.

    Rating: A


    Anna Karenina (Oprah's Book Club)
    ...more info
  • Book of great character
    If you enjoy characters as much as I do, you too will fall in love with this book. This particular translation of Tolstoy seems to both keep true to Russian history and build likable characters at the same time. This book, although calling for some side research to fully understand the details in the plot, is an easy enough read. ...more info
  • read it if you love old Russian writers
    This is another great book that probably works for only certain readers. I love its old Russian feel--the atmosphere, the history, the details are all fantastic. However, the main attraction are its characters. I love the frankness of the situations. Although there is some dramatic glamourization of some aspects, most of the situations appear pretty real. The characters run a large spectrum. We enter the minds and private spaces of a handful, while others serve as a framework for the others. The moral and sentimental conflicts are not just black and white and the subtle details make for a great psychological analysis. I thought that characterizing this book as the "greatest love story every written" is pretty inaccurate.
    In short, if you love the old Russian writers, lots of detail, and complicated characters, this book is for you. A caveat: it is very long and you actually need to pay attention to the details. I would recommend reading other reviews on it to decide if it is for you (I know it's a classic, but I have found some classics kind of annoying and reading other's opinions from the Amazon reviews actually helped more than the pretentious magazine reviewers who probably just read the Cliff notes...)...more info