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Anna Karenina (Oprah #5): (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (Oprah's Classics Book Club Selections) Paperback – May 2004

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Paperback, May 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Deluxe edition (May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143035002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143035008
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 4.6 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 258,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) wrote two of Russia's greatest novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), as well as many short stories and essays.

Inside This Book

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All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Read the first page
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bentley on 18 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"

- Leo Tolstoy "Anna Karenina"

Anna Karenina is a beautifully written novel about three families: the Oblonskys, the Levins, and the Karenins. The first line (one of the most famous in literature) 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.
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1 of 39 people found the following review helpful By James Homer on 21 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
This book came with all the pages having very rough edges on the right hand side.
I didn't bother to read it.
I would advise you to look at versions in a bookshop first.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 416 reviews
221 of 244 people found the following review helpful
Greatest Novel Ever Written 5 July 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I read this book in 1993, and I still remember the experience. It has been called the greatest novel ever written and I agree.

It is a very long book: I read a few chapters a day over a long period of time. Over time the feeling developed that the characters, and Tolstoy himself (in Levin), were people I knew -- people with whom I spent some time each day. The philosophy was mind-expanding; I'm sure my views were affected.
For me, the important thing in reading this book was not to try to "get through" it, but to "visit" it as I would visit congenial neighbors. When I finished, I felt loneliness over loss of contact with the characters.
I'm going to read it again some day.
259 of 288 people found the following review helpful
A beautiful mosaic of interlinked stories ... 1 Jun. 2004
By B. Alcat - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Anna Karenina" (1873-7) is a book that could be compared to a beautiful mosaic of interlinked stories. Thanks to Tolstoy's book, we get to know characters who sometimes seem so real that we cannot help but living with them the series of events that are recounted in this book.
Who are the main characters?. Well, we might begin by telling something about Anna Karenina, the woman who gives this book its title. Anna is someone who has found some satisfaction in a marriage to a husband she doesn't love. Her life isn't exciting, but she is comfortable, and has a son that means everything to her. Her world will be shaken when a nobleman, Count Vronsky, falls in love with her. He pursuits Anna until he convinces her to become his lover, indulging in an adulterous affair. But... will he go on loving her, even after she risks all for him?. And did she do the right thing, by following her heart without thinking about the consequences of her actions?.
There are many more characters, but I would like to highlight one of them: Levin. Levin is a rather eccentric gentleman farmer, who worries about things like the meaning of life, and allows the reader to share with him the kind of doubts that many have had, but few voice. He ends up finding happiness, but his path is not easy, especially because he is prone to reflect on issues that cause him anguish. His story is linked at the beginning of the book to that of Anna and Vronsky because the woman he loves, Kitty Shcherbatskaya, thinks she loves Vronsky. However, as the story advances, you will probably end up comparing Anna and Vronsky's relationship to that of Kitty and Levin. One is all drama, and passion; the other, calm and contentment. Which one is better?. And according to whom?.
I want to point out how well Tolstoy depicted 19th century Russian society, especially the differences between social classes and how much hypocrisy permeated the moral codes of polite society. If you pay close attention you will notice that several themes also to be found in other classics are recurrent in "Anna Karenina". One of them is fate, and some of the others are the omnipresence of death, the meaning of life, and the power of faith. There are many more things I would like to say about this book, but I think you will do better if you start to read "Anna Karenina" right now, instead of spending more of your time reading a long review such as this one :)
On the whole, I highly recommend this book. It is one of those few books that don't allow you to remain indifferent. You might hate it or love it, but it will necessarily make you think about several important subjects, whilst reading a good story.
Belen Alcat
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Magnificent and Tragic 6 Jun. 2004
By Anne Rice - Published on
Format: Paperback
One of the greatest novels of all time. Once you read it straight through and experience its immensity and depth, you can keep it around and dip into it when you need to be reminded that a work of art -- novel, play, film, what have you -- can give you not only continued enjoyment but profound truths. Tolstoy is one of the few writers I've ever read -- indeed possibly the only writer I've ever read -- who really treats men and women equally. Now in later life he wrote many provocative things about gender, but at the time he wrote Anna Karenina, he saw the soul inside a human with unlimited generosity. Note his loving attention to the emotions and suffering of the young adolescent Kitty Scherbatsky who becomes in fact a heroine of the work, and how he takes her every bit as seriously as he takes any male character in the book. If you go on to War and Peace, you'll find the same inquiry into the depths of the soul in total resregard of masculine/feminine identity. It has been said that Tolstoy raised the novel to the level of Greek or Shakespearean tragedy. I believe that he did. I believe he did because, being Russian, receiving the novel as something of an imported form from England and/or France, he did not have any prejudice towards it as some sort of "domestic" or "popular" form. In other words, no one told him the novel couldn't be great. And he made it great. Read this book, even if you have to carry it around with you for a while. I recommend the old translation by Constance Garnett, but there are other ones.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
An affair to remember! (...and much more) 25 Jun. 2008
By Patrick W. Crabtree - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is world-class literature and a story, albeit an older one, which teaches us much about life. I would HIGHLY recommend this book as a gift to any young adult. Yes, it is lengthy but here Tolstoy has yielded us one of the finest tales ever written.

Anna Karenina is pure female Homo sapiens. She is both good and bad (it's not really a spoiler to note that she falls prey to drugs -- morphine), but most of all, human. When I first began reading this terrific story I anticipated that I would eventually be disappointed by having guessed at what was about to happen -- I BELIEVED that Tolstoy was going to tell me about a sweet girl whom was about to have bad things happen to her and, thus, the great author was going to barter for my sympathies for her. Well no such thing! Instead, Anna Karenina could well be living in the 21st Century given her impulsive proclivities and leading a lifestyle which attends little on injurious consequences, (which we seem to see a lot of these days!). Sometimes I admired her and sometimes I wanted to strangle her, but as I read on I could not see where Tolstoy was really heading with her until the very end.

THE STORY: Anna Karenina falls in love with a dashing, handsome, young Russian military officer -- the problem is that she's married to a stogy (rich and influential) old nobleman and the two have a young son. This old curmudgeon (sometimes a wimpy fool and sometimes an aggressive scoundrel) clings to very religious and moralistic ethics and as Anna's affair evolves, the old man is launched into a distasteful and unpleasant roller coaster ride of emotion.

There are a number of great sub-plots but the chief one concerns a young landowner, the reformist Levin, who is passionate about two things: 1. changing the archaic Russian agricultural system (a very important issue in that period of Russian culture!), and, 2. marrying an early sweetheart. The difficulty with his second agenda is that this gal is in love with Anna's young lover, and not with Levin!

Maybe some folks will get to like Levin as they read on but by the end of the book I really despised him -- other readers might see Levin in a more positive light which is much of the beauty of this book. This work can inspire varying character alliances (as well as the reverse) for readers, the latter of whom have all experienced a diversity of real-life episodes (either directly or vicariously) which they will no doubt relate and append to the happenings within this fascinating book. Tolstoy's ability to create a mental symbiosis between particular characters in his stories and his readers was astounding.

One of the principal characters (I won't name him) will ultimately surprise the reader with both his perseverance as well as with his positive morality. Religion, and perhaps some hipocrisy, is a large feature of "Anna Karenina" and it is rendered in a fashion which clearly manifests some present-day circumstances and applications.

But, most of all, beyond the moral lessons, "Anna Karenina" is just a great and readable story. It's a lot like reading A Mummer's Tale (Anatole France) or "The Great Gatsby" (F. Scott Fitzgerald) -- the moral lessons are present but do not in any way interfere with the story's development.

It's difficult to say enough good about this book. Larissa Volokhonsky is a wonderful and competent translator. She and her husband, Richard Pevear, only recently published their terrific translation of Tolstoy's "War and Peace," the Mother of all Russian literature. As to "Anna Karenina," buy it and read it -- you will savor it. It's a poster example of classic Russian literature at its best.
46 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Not a fan of Anna or her story 17 Mar. 2011
By HolJo - Published on
Format: Paperback
I want to point out that the version I own (and have read) of this book is 1978 translation. I'd like to think that translations have improved in the last 30 years. It is challenging to read a book in which the sentence structures are not that of contemporary English speach.

Part of this book is about Anna of course, part is focused the people in her life, and the rest is an ongoing narrative of political and socioeconomic issues of the time. We hear arguments for and against educating women and the lower classes, we hear of the strain between upper and lower classes in everything from manual labor to professional negotiations, we are educated about legal issues regarding everything from property sales to the sale of goods and services to the execution of marriage and divorce, and so on. I do appreciate books that take the time to educate a reader rather than simply telling a story, so I do appreciate Tolstoy's clear dedication to bringing the reader into the real world of this time and place.

One of the things I struggled with was the disjointed feeling between the love story and the background information. It was almost like Tolstoy had written two different books with the same characters, then shuffled them together like a deck of cards so that there were sections of each book intertwined with the other, but still in sequential order. One book was a tragic love story, the other a socioeconomic manifesto. It was one part novel and one part textbook, and that is exactly how it felt as I read it. I felt that as soon as I started getting invested in a particular character or storyline, I was "putting down" the story and picking up my homework. Then when I was done reading my homework, I went back to the novel with a lowered emotional intensity because of the break.

The second (and probably most dominant) issue I had with the story was that I really didn't care for Anna. Anna lived during a part of our world's history in which women were considered property to be owned by their husbands. Marriage (especially for the upper classes) was a business arrangement for either title or money. Love matches were rare and even scoffed at in some circles. Many women didn't get to choose their husbands themselves. Infidelity was very common because if a person wanted love or passion, they needed to simply be discreet and look outside their marriage. It was perfectly acceptable as long as it was kept private. For this reason, I didn't think there was anything particularly unique or original about Anna's story, nor did I feel pity her. In the bigger picture of the society of the time, Anna was extremely fortunate to have the husband and life she had. Her husband was faithful to her, he provided everything she needed, he cared for her, he forgave her anything, he didn't abuse her, he wasn't cruel, and he didn't attempt to be a prison guard and control her every action. She was one of the lucky women, it could have been so much worse for her. And yet, she didn't seem to have any appreciation for what she had. She focused only on what she did not have, sacrificed her entire life to pursue the one thing that was missing and then still wasn't happy. I can not respect a character who can not appreciate the good in his/her life. She had only to look at the poor - those people who didn't know where their next meal would come from, or if they could provide shelter for their children - to learn how fortunate she was. But Anna had become so self absorbed that she couldn't see anything beyond what she wanted.

Then, when she finally has her lover to herself as she wanted all along, she still isn't satisfied. She becomes jealous and possessive and insecure. She had made her choices and got what she wanted, and now she wanted something different or something more. Ultimately her selfishness and shortsightedness left two children without a mother and two men with ruined lives. She could have chosen to be content in her life at any point during this book, but she did not. The last choice she makes in this story was not only selfish, but completely manipulative. She hurt everyone who cared about her.

My dislike for Anna left me frustrated and angry and disinterested in her feelings. She could have been a survivor, she could have made a positive difference in the lives of others, she could have left a positive legacy in the world through the people who loved her. Instead, she embodied all of the sterotypical negative qualities that had held women back for hundreds of years.

On the positive side, I did enjoy some of the other storylines in the book, like Levin and Kitty's love story for example. The purity and honesty in this couple was notably refreshing compared to many of the other characters. These were the only two people in the story who did seem to grasp (eventually) how fortunate they were. They actually experienced gratitude for each other and their lives together, which was the one pleasant part of the story.

Although I did like him, Levin unfortunately contributed a good portion of the inner dialog that felt more like a school lesson than a novel and broke the flow of the story for me. I did appreciate his growth in the story. I did appreciate his thirst for knowledge and understanding. I did not, however, care for how his inner dialog took me so far away from the story that I lost connection with the plot and characters. I did get bored of being inside his mind at times.

Another positive that I must give appropriate credit - I very much enjoyed the wonderful descriptiveness of the various settings. I felt that I could picture the people and places as clearly as if I had seen them with my own eyes.

I have no idea why people call this the best book ever written. I know it is a classic and must have touched people enough over the years to reach its elevated status in the literature world. But in my opinion, there wasn't enough to like about the story or the main characters. I didn't put down the book with a feeling that it would stick with me. I wasn't emotionally connected to the people or invested in their lives. Was I supposed to learn something about love? Was it meant to be a history lesson? If I can't identify what I was supposed to have gotten out of a book, then clearly I didn't get enough from the book to identify any sort of contribution to my life. I suppose I could look at it as only entertainment since it is a novel, but I can't do that either because I generally do not enjoy depressing myself as a form of entertainment.

I seem to be in the minority with my opinion of this book. There are some pieces of literature that have stood the test of time and never gone out of print - this is one of them. I think that a book with this kind of longevity deserves to be read. So even though I didn't like it myself, I still recommend that you read the book yourself and form your own opinions.
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