{Post by the Husband} Book Review: Anna Karenina

April 3, 2013 § 2 Comments

This is a series of brief book reviews of literary works that have been read by Ben or myself. The book list will be published at the end of the month and will include titles that have been finished in the previous month. All books are rated using the following system:

5 Stars – Excellent. Couldn’t put it down, a real page turner. It’s easy to be a bookworm when the material is this good!

4 Stars – Very Good. Liked most of the book, a little slow in parts. Was an enjoyable read overall.

3 Stars – Average. Nothing really made it stand out. A bit boring. Unrealistic plot.

2 Stars – So-so. Blah. Could only read a few pages before I fell asleep.

1 Stars – Poor. So boring…I couldn’t even finish it.

English: Title page of first edition of Anna K...

English: Title page of first edition of Anna Karenina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not long ago, I read and reviewed War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  Inspired by this epic novel and intrigued after the recent film Anna Karenina, I decided to try reading this Tolstoy classic as well.  I expected that Anna Karenina would be of similar caliber to War and Peace, especially as sits near the top of many listings of the greatest books ever.  However, I was surprisingly disappointed by Anna Karenina, and after reading 40% of it, I had to put it down.  I tried to finish it, but I couldn’t find enough redeeming value to complete the work.

In my opinion, there are a few key elements to an excellent book: 1) language; 2) character development; 3) story; and 4) themes.  Anna Karenina does the first two very well.  Tolstoy’s language is effective and compelling, and his character development is superb.  For instance, the depiction of the title character, Anna, is detailed and convincing – the reader senses the depth of her descent into depravity and despair as she enters into an affair with Vronsky and experiences the death of her marriage.  However, the story is not engaging – the characters are mostly Russian bourgeoisie who live self-indulgent lives, attending one social gathering after another.  In addition, there are no great themes present within this work – for example, themes of good and evil, or a fall and redemption.  Thus, for these reasons, I found Anna Karenina to be a big disappointment.

When a book is regarded by most people as a classic, we may feel compelled to admire it.  However, I will dare to disagree with Anna Karenina’s admiring critics and state that it is not worth reading.  If you like Russian literature, War and Peace, or Dostoevsky‘s works, are far superior.


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