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4.2 out of 5 stars246
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 27 March 2012
Having thought that Tolstoy would be dry and heavy going, for some reason I picked a nicely bound hard back copy of this in Dorset a few months back. It took me some time to summon up the courage to 'start it up', given its 900 plus pages in length. However like my old Toyota that has taken me to Biarritz last week, both are going strong once started.
What it certainly is not is dry or turgid. It flows easily and has you on the edge-it races on and one cannot put it down. I take i to the beach daily and am now nearly finished. The issues raised are as alive today as they were in 19th century Russia. Issues such as : love, infidelity, morality, divorce, love of ones children (even) -role of women in society-sex/politics/class/ etc. and all introduced seemlessly in a book that deals with the relationships between a group of people-some related and others not so. A beautiful woman who one assumes is the central character of the book, from its title, is but one in a maelstrom of relationships that are constantly changing over time. What is original I find is the way Tolstoy makes you try and identify personally with the feelings of each character at different junctures in their lives and you find your sympathies altering as they find themselves in changing circumstances.
The book is captivating from the outset and draws you in and makes you question even your own position and relationships. a feature of the book i find extremely clever is how Tolstoy makes characters forever changing under different circumstances-as we all do but maybe don't realise.
I haven't read any other reviews and have no idea if they see anything that i have in the work. It is one of the best reads and greatest books I have read, both in its style and substance.
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on 3 February 2013
I was disappointed because the copy I downloaded is written in US 'English'. As an English teacher, I find this extremely irritating and it marred my reading experience. I am not reviewing Tolstoy's imaginative prose but the Kindle copy I bought (in error!) I should appreciate guidance as to how to avoid this happening for future downloads.

Thank you,

Drina Parker
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on 11 April 2001
I read Anna Karenina for the hype - so many people talk of it being one of the best books ever written. And I was interested in Tolstoy, who is a fascinating character.
At time of reading, I found the novel okay. The characters came alive on the page, and many of the scenes in the novel were beautifully delineated. But I found the pace too slow, and was bored by all Levin's socio-political musings on Russia at that time.
Months later, and I find that the book still resonantes in my mind. I find myself still thinking about Anna and her fate; about that excruciating moment where Karenin approaches total forgiveness and then veers away; about Dolly, Kitty and Oblonsky. About how different the world of Anna Karenina is from my own, in some ways, but still so relevant. And the differences are illuminating.
In this novel, Tolstoy manages to weave together a whole world of stories and people and events. I can't really describe it other than saying that it is a very very human story. Greater than the sum of its parts.
Don't read this book if you think you might become impatient 'getting through' it. It deserves better that that. But if you're reading these reviews wondering whether it's worth taking all that time to read one of the world's reputed classics, then my anonymous 25-year-old word, for what it's worth, is that yes, it definitely is.
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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 9 January 2007
"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". With this opening the reader is brought at the heart of the novel: family life and the lives led by the separate members of families. The idea of a novel about the grand monde had long haunted Tolstoy as well as writing about a married lady of that world who would ruin herself. The two lovers, Anna and Vronsky think that in their relationship they can escape society, but find they cannot. Without the freedom of the society they live in their passion becomes a kind of prison. Their entourage is too much part of them: they need it too much and the attempt to do without it destroys them both.

All the characters in Anna Karenina are intensely real: the peasants in the fields, the people in Moscow, Stiva, Levin, Kitty, the Shcherbatskys. They all know each other, they live in the same world with the rest of the Russian upper class. The inner mental life and struggle of Levin reflects Tolstoy's own state of mind at the time he was writing. He had conservative views on marriage and childrearing which he thought were a woman's duty.

Is the novel out of date? Would Anna today get a divorce, marry Vronsky and live happily ever after? Tolstoy didn't think so Tragedies like that of Anna Karenina do not depend on social change and enlightened social arrangements.
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on 13 May 2009
I comment not on the book, but this edition. I assume few people will be convinced of the classic's merits (or lack thereof) based on an online review. However, I would like to alert the potential customer that this edition is positively riddled with typos. The notes, table of contents, and the actual pagination do not at all line up; the letter "l" is replaced by a "]" at times, dozens of words are clearly misspelled, a time is given as 8.2 pm; the list goes on. I have no idea whether or not the translation is faithful to the Russian; I do know it is far from faithful to the conventions of standard written English.
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on 25 October 2012
I read this back when I was in sixth form and I just had to get it on my kindle for another read. Thoroughly enjoyed this book and if there's people who like classic love stories, not that fifty shades of grey rubbish. Definitely worth a read.
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on 5 September 2012
Louise and Aylmer Maude's translation, as used by Wordsworth Classics, is by far the best translation of Anna Karenina. They translated what Tolstoy wrote, rather than putting their own spin on things, as Peaver and Volkhonsky have done. The Maude translation is also better than Garnett's groundbreaking work which tends to get a bit lost in places.
The famous opening lines, as translated by the Maudes read thus:
"All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"
This is exactly how Tolstoy wrote it in the original Russian and it is exactly what he wanted the reader to understand.

However, the Peaver/Volkhonsky version translates Tolsoy's words slightly differently:
"All happy families are the same...etc"
This subtle difference may not not seem important but in fact it is very important. "Resemble" does not mean "the same" and the difference in approach to translation between the Maudes and Peaver is quite striking and makes a huge difference to the overall reading experience. While the Maudes give us, as near as possible, what Tolstoy actually wrote, given the sometimes impossible to translate differences between English and Russian, the Peavers give us the same story but not in the language that Tolstoy intended. What they give us is a slightly dry, modernised and ultimately flat reading of a what was once a beautifully written novel.

Garnett mis-translates the opening in her own fashion:
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

We may forgive Constance her errors simply because she was the one who first gave the great Russian writers to the English speaking world. But there are now better translations.

If you want to read Anna Karenina in language, nuance and meaning as intended by Tolstoy, read the Maude translation.
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on 10 October 2007
This remarkable story 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.UNION MOUJIK,DR ZHIVAGO, EUGENE ONEGIN are some of the other books set in Russia that I enjoyed alongside ANNA KARENINA.
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on 22 July 2005
This for me is the best Tolstoy. The story is excellent and Tolstoy's description of salon society in Tsarist Russia is fascinating. In a way Anna's fall from grace is similar to bonfire of the vanities. Tolstoy does tend to set up each chapter with about 5-10 pages of desriptive prose on agricultural woes or other countryside news, but once we get back to the story it is excellent.
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