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A classic in the history of Russian literature,
This review is from: Anna Karenina (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
"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Is the novel out of date?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.