I have been planning to read some Russian classics for some time and finally chose to read Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”. It’s a huge book and took me 2 and a half months to finish.
The most remarkable thing about this book is the writing style. I read a German translation. So I cannot say anything about the original Russian text. But even in the translation, the book has a flow that I haven’t seen in many books. Even in passages that were somewhat too detailed for my taste — describing ideas and situations I didn’t deem overly interesting — the story just flows nicely and I had to keep on reading.
I liked the people this book presents — each one with their own believable personality. Although Anna Karenina gives the book its name, she doesn’t really dominate the book. The other protagonists like Ljewin and Kitty seem to get an equal share of attention. Or maybe it’s because Anna gradually withers away, that I didn’t perceive her as a spotlight character.
Actually the description of how Anna sinks deeper and deeper into her depression and finally only finds a very fatal way out is one of the very strong story telling aspects of the book. It’s really breathtaking and sad. And then the perspective changes again and you see how other people have the best times of their lives.
Besides looking at the varied lives of all those people one also gets a feeling for how living was like in 19th century Russia. Especially the problems and restrictions women had to cope with then are unbelievable nowadays.
So I fully recommend “Anna Karenina” but with the warning that it’s a long book with a rather slow but nice pace. It takes time and patience but is totally worth the effort.