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4.3 out of 5 stars61
4.3 out of 5 stars
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It has to be mentioned that Anna Karenina is viewed by a lot of people as the perfect novel, and who am I to disagree? I have read it many times in numeorus traslations and so I feel that I should point out that this was translated by the late Constance Garnett. Because her translations are all out of copyright she is the world's most read English translator of Russian literature. It must be said that she did have a tendency to leave things out if she couldn't understand it and she did make alterations, mainly so that it would flow better in English. I know she has come in for a lot of criticism over the years but it should never be forgotten that she gave the reading public here and in the US translations of all the Russian greats and made them easily accessible for all.

Anna Karenina the novel, is absolutely brilliant, it holds you from the beginning, all the way throuh to the end. Taking us through such things as hypocrisy and jealousy, it takes us into a family and keeps us rooted in all the problems that it faces. If you have never read this before then now is definitely the time, if you have already read it, surely it is about time you read it again.

So remember, although this isn't the most accurate translation on the market, this is free and is easily readable, plus it does keep to the story, also the biggest complaints about her accuracy usually fall on her translations of Dostoevsky more than any other author.
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VINE VOICEon 5 December 2010
I'm reading this book due to being part of a book club. I probably would never have read it if it wasnt a)for the club and b) its a free download on the kindle. While I appreciate that the free edition is probably not as well translated as the more expensive editions, the story itself that Tolstoy creates goes beyond the mere difference in translation. The way he weaves a very complex yet deeply stimulating image of Russian society, politics, economics, history, values etc, and how that impacts on the normal lives of various people is incredible and realistic. How I wonder what Tolstoy would make of our modern society now!

What I also love is how Tolstoy gives us not just the actions of the characters, but there innermost thoughts and feelings as well - including the odd dog or two!!! Utterly wonderful to feel and know exactly what each character is going through and when a character such as Anna does not think of something, it shows just how far into denial she really is.

I'm totally spellbound by this book and encourage others to eat it up too.
Its a free kindle download, so you'd be daft not too!
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on 1 August 2010
This book was my first foray into Russian literature, and I could not have had a better introduction. Tolstoy has a way of phrasing the thoughts and feelings of the characters that is so insightful, precise and identifiable that it easily transcends the innumerable differences between a modern reader and the selection of people he focuses on living in nineteenth century Russia. They are all incredibly psychologically developed and I felt as if I knew them all personally and could predict how they might react in any given situation. Tolstoy also colours his narrative so that it is seen through the eyes of the different characters, giving the reader many different viewpoints from which to perceive events and settings and so making the novel very rich. A scene from the perspective of Oblonsky, for example, is light, frivolous and faintly cynical, whereas the same situation seen through Levin's eyes is thoughtful and earnest.

Unfortunately, while the human drama of the novel has stood the test of time admirably, much of Tolstoy's social commentary has not fared so well. The sections on social economy, agriculture and political systems may have ben fascinating to a contemporary Russian reader but I found them lengthy, tedious, unnecessary and, dare I say it, dull. However, I'm more than willing to ignore the effect of these passages in light of the sheer brilliance of the rest of the book.

This particular translation (Penguin, 1954, this edition 2000) by Rosemary Edmonds is fantastic. Her prose is readable and appropriate, so that the book does not read like translated literature at all, but like any other nineteenth century novel. The illusion was so well-executed that the only time I was made aware that I wasn't reading original language literature was when characters discussed which pronouns to use to refer to one another, an aspect of language which is absent from modern English. Both the translation and the original writing make this a thoroughly excellent book.
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on 2 April 1998
I enjoyed reading the other reviews on this web page. I, too, found this book a pleasureable reading experience, though it took some patience to stick with a fairly long reading project. Anna's husband, Karenin, is often overlooked in discussions of this book, except for an occasional comment about the "loveless" marriage he and Anna had. Yet when Anna walked out to elope with Vronsky, she hurt not only her son but her husband as well; and while this book does deal with contemporary Russian social mores, its focus is really on morality, on choices of the soul, that people like Anna, Vronsky, or Levin make. Tolstoy shows in this novel that moral choices DO matter, and that these decisions have meaningful consequences. For Anna, it ended in the tragedy of her suicide. For Levin, his realization that he truly did love his family, even if he didn't understand all of the metaphysical issues he frequently contemplated. This is one of those novels that encourages repeated readings, as there is too much food for thought to be adequately digested in one go around. If you are considering whether or not to purchase this novel, then by all means buy it. It will give you plenty to think about now and in repeated readings in the years to come.
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on 18 October 2007
"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. 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

Bentley/2007
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on 24 July 2011
Although the characters in Anna Karenina may live in Tsarist Russia, you have met their like, and you will recognise the truth and tragedies of their portryal in this wonderful novel. You may find the expositions of such areas as how to treat farm workers rather wordy, but you will find yourself savouring the descriptions of Levin mowing and empathising with his irritation at slovenly work. I haven't mentioned the eponymous heroine and her lover, but there are so many passages that will linger in your memory ...
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on 17 March 2011
I have just finished reading the (now free) Kindle edition which seems to be the translation by Constance Garnett. I do not know which edition other reviewers have read but I found it delightful. Admittedly, it is not a short book but Tolstoy realistically portrayed a vast array of characters from all levels of society and most (probably all) of them can still be seen in the diversity of attitudes and relationships of the modern world.
Anna Karenina should be required reading for all secondary school pupils not simply as great literature and historical interest but as education in social relationships. Technical sex educaton is fine but understanding relationships is at least as important.
A most enjoyable read although, for me, the heroine is not Anna but Kitty, Princess Ekaterina Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya, the younger sister of Anna's sister-in-law, whose eventual husband, Konstantin Dmitrievitch Levin, is the real hero.
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on 18 June 2012
Thank goodness for the Kindle- if it weren't for it I wouldn't have read Anna Karenina! I have a new found love of Leo Tolstoy. The character development is wonderful, each one fleshed out realistically and even sympathetically, and Tolstoy articulates feelings so incredibly well, so that you as a reader can understand the reactions, compatibilities/incompatibilities of the various characters. The social politics was also a very interesting and unexpected component in this work. The style of the translation i thought fitted the time at which the book was written; maybe in time I will try a more modern version, but for me this translation style complemented the story. Incredible literary work of art- I haven't felt this passionately about a book for more than a decade.
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on 2 December 2014
Oprah Winfrey was right about her high reagrds for his story. Anna Karenina, a remarkable work of art by one of the few mega-novelists of all times is an ageless story that is more real than fiction. I decided to read a copy of this book on my way to vacation last the summer and ended up spending most of my first week being glued to the book. Though it is a Russian story of a century and a half ago, its essence still resonates today.

Anna who is married to the wealthy and older Karenin lives a life of comfort without any excitement, a life that is full of routines and no zest. It is a life she had become used to until she meets the elegant Vronsky and falls in love. Now she must pay the price of adultery or seek marital stability and forgo the echoes of her heart, a soul searching trial that destabilizes the life of her family and that of her lover. In essence she abandons the meaning for her life and pursues the zest of life.

On the other hand is Levine who is in search of the meaning of life and abandons the zest of life for a purposeful life that includes a family, ideas on the advancement of humanism, being at peace with ones world and hard work in is farm and being at peace with God.

In a way, both Levine and Anna can not be blamed for opting considering one choice above the other. They all wanted happiness without having evil intentions and found a balance between the zest of life and the search of its meaning in their own different ways, hurting and find love in the process and in the end, enriching and destroying themselves in their different ways. A highly recommended read and the most insightful love story I have ever read.The Union Moujik, Doctor Zhivago , Eugene Onegin are some of the other books set in Russia that I enjoyed alongside Anna Karenina.
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on 18 October 2007
"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. 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

Bentley/2007
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