Anna Karenina Group Read 2013- Part 2

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Anna Karenina Group Read 2013- Part 2

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gen. 11, 2013, 9:50pm

"Note. Every Russian has three names: first name, patronymic, last name. The root of the middle name is that of the father, plus a suffix meaning "son of" or "daughter of." Thus Anna's middle name is "Arkadyevna," while that of her brother is "Arkadyevitch." Russians call each other by the Christian name and patronymic, rarely by surname. For the sake of clarity, however, English translators use the characters' family names wherever possible."

Character list:

Anna Arkadyevna Karenina- High society heroine whose love affair keynotes the novel.

Alexey Alexandrovitch Karenin- Anna's deceived husband. He is a frigid, lonely man with an influential government position in St. Petersburg.

Sergei Alexeyitch Karenin (Seriozha)- Anna's son whom she is forced to leave for her lover's sake.

Count Alexey Kirillovitch Vronsky- Anna's lover, an honorable, rich, handsome aide-de-camp with a promising army career which he gives up in order to live with Anna.

Konstantin Dmitrich Levin (Kostya)- Autobiographical hero of novel.

Princess Katerina Alexandrovna Shtcherbatsky (Kitty)- The eighteen year old debutante who becomes Levin's wife.

Prince Stepan Arkadyevitch Oblonsky (Stiva)- Anna's brother who is a pleasure-loving socialite.

Princess Darya Alexandrovna Oblonsky (Dolly)- Stiva's long-suffering wife and Kitty's older sister.

Nicolai Dmitrich Levin- Levin's profligate brother who dies of tuberculosis.

Sergei Ivanitch Koznyshev- Levin's elder half-brother who is a famous writer and intellectual.

gen. 11, 2013, 9:52pm

Okay, this will take us from Book 5 to Book 8. I know we have one person finished. I just started Book 5. Anyone else this far?

gen. 11, 2013, 10:56pm

I am also just starting Book 5.

gen. 12, 2013, 12:57pm

I just finished it.

gen. 13, 2013, 5:33pm

Almost there. I just discovered that the audio book I was listening too of the story was only part one and ended in the middle of part four. So I'll be back here soon hopefully :)

Editat: gen. 14, 2013, 1:22am

Just completed Part 5. I enjoyed Tolstoy’s description of Levin & Kitty’s first months of marriage. And how Kitty surprises Levin at every turn–she is much stronger than he thinks, especially handling Levin’s brother. It is as if Kitty & Levin, in their short time together, have learned to think almost as one. I want to read more about how she will tackle life in the country and children.

On the other hand, the Anna/Vronsky/Alexei triangle just seems to get worse & worse. Each of the three seems to feel that the problems are everyone else’s fault, and they can only see from their own points of view. Especially touching was Anna’s meeting with her son, and yet at the same time her insistence on going to the theater almost seemed mad. I almost dread reading more about these 3; it seems it can't come to a good end. And isn't that Countess Lydia Ivanovna a pain in the neck?

gen. 14, 2013, 9:29pm

kac522- I'm so glad you mentioned the Levin & Kitty wedding. I also loved it and I agree that Tolstoy's description of the early days of their marriage, both ups & downs was incredibly perceptive and spot-on.

I'm about halfway through Book 6. I loved the hunting segment with Levin, (my favorite parts of the book always seem to include him) and the fat German Count.

gen. 15, 2013, 9:26am

I loooooove Levin and Kitty. For me, the whole book is really about them and not about Anna.

gen. 15, 2013, 5:51pm

Hear, hear, Nora! I agree with you, Mark and others. Loved the Levin and Kitty wedding, the hunting segment, Levin mowing, and there's more good Levin and Kitty as you go on.

I finished the book, and wrote some somewhat snarky comments about Anna and Vronsky on the book page for the Maude translation, It would have been fine with me if the parts with Anna, Karenin and Vronsky were surgically removed from the book.

gen. 15, 2013, 10:48pm

Besides the contrast between the 2 couples, why *does* Tolstoy title this book Anna Karenina? Is it to make Levin/Kitty seem so wonderful? Is it to point out how wrong life can go without a strong character and/or "morals"? Or is it how easy one can slip into a wretched life unless one works at it? I'm not really sure. So many questions, I feel like Levin.....

Editat: gen. 16, 2013, 5:49pm

#10 - The introduction in my version of the book said that the story was originally mostly about Anna, with Levin as a very minor character. Levin became a co-protagonist in later versions. So perhaps Tolstoy continued to think of Anna as the main character and named the book after her?

gen. 16, 2013, 10:35pm

Just finished Part 6; the book slowed down for me during the election scene. I was more bored than Levin, I think.

gen. 17, 2013, 7:16pm

Amy- That is interesting! I think Levin would have made a perfect main-character.

kac522- I did not care for the election parts either. Talk about slowing the narrative to a crawl. Unfortunately, there are a few moments like this in the book. Philosophy, labor practices and religion...just not that fascinating to this 21st Century Man.

I only have 50 pages left. Hooray. Book 8 is the shortest, at less than a 100 pages.

gen. 17, 2013, 10:21pm

Nowhere near finished (almost at the end of part 2), but have read it relatively recently before so am not scared of spoilers. :)

Was pointed to this rather good review: and thought some of you might be interested. Beware, it DOES contain spoilers if you haven't finished the book.

gen. 18, 2013, 3:10pm

#14 - I love that review! Thanks for sharing it. It was funny and informative all at the same time. I appreciated the permission to skip through sections on the economic benefits of the feudal system! I also found it interesting that the reviewer also questioned the title since the book isn't mainly about Anna.

I'm still in the middle of Part 5, and I just ran across this great quote describing Alexei Alexandrovich: "All women, simply as women, were frightening and repulsive to him." I don't have much sympathy for Anna, but this does help me understand her lack of fidelity a bit!

gen. 18, 2013, 4:35pm

I love that review, too! Very astute. SPOILER? I agree with him, too, about the wonderfulness of the section where Kitty helps with Levin's sick brother.

I'd add to his,"if you want, skip the sections on the economic benefits of the feudal system" the one Mark and others are mentioning above - skip (or skim) the election parts. Yawn. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen.

gen. 18, 2013, 9:58pm

I'm just wondering if Tolstoy made it boring on purpose, so that we are as bored as Levin is.

gen. 19, 2013, 11:25am

>17 kac522: I think that at the time, Tolstoy's ideas on feudalism, socialism, and politics were pretty original and so it was much more interesting for the audience it was immediately intended for.

gen. 19, 2013, 2:23pm

> 18 Good point.

gen. 20, 2013, 1:13pm

I have added this here as well as on the first thread since I wasn't sure if anybody would be going back there for much, once they started over here.

I've only just read...Anna Karenina...hmmhmm...lalalalalala....(sing to the tune of "We've only just begun" by the Carpenters) Some of us here are old enough to remember the Carpenters aren't we? Anyway, What I Like About Anna Karenina...What I like about Anna Karenina is that it has the sense of an old classic about it I know...that's because it is one! I know). When I read a classic I don't want a modern feel to the words. I enjoy the unfamiliarity of the phrasing and the way that questions are put or statements made. I am glad this translation retains that quality. (Constance Garnett) I don't know if this quality is something particular to Russian novels or novels written in the 1800's and early and middle 1900's. Maybe a little of both. The modern novel, too, is a wonderful thing, there is such freedom and leeway for the author to take any tack he/she wishes. But, while there is less restraint, I wonder if that very limitation is what gave the early novelists their flair for stating the obvious and creating books that most often made important social and political statements.
In AK, as in many classics, descriptive passages are long and wordy, especially when a character is being described. These descriptions seemed to me to be the device used to move the plot along.Personality, physical descriptions, flaws and attributes are carefully rendered and serve to qualify the action. For instance, to know Stepan, Levin and Darya, is to know what goes on in the beginning of the novel. Stepan's infidelity determines what is happening in his home, and Darya is certainly a product of the time she lives in, so the reader can anticipate what may come next, action wise. Levin's description foreshadows what is certain to come in the chapters concerning him and Kitty. "But Levin was in love, and so it seemed to him that Kitty was so perfect in every respect that she was a creature far above everything earthly, and that he was a creature so low and so earthly that it could not even be conceived that other people and she herself could regard him as worthy of her." So we know that Levin is going to pursue Kitty and that Kitty may not be ready for this sort of romantic pursuit. Until I read a description of Anna, I won't know the part she will play in the novel. I hope I have not spoiled any parts for readers who may just be starting the book, but I don't think so. Good Reading!

gen. 20, 2013, 2:02pm

Although I am not very far along in AK, I do seem to be enjoying it so I will continue on. While I may not have anything new to add to what you all have already covered, I thought if I just talked about the way I feel about reading a classic, which to me is often quite a different experience than reading more current work, then I will be making some sort of contribution. I would also like to know how you folks feel about reading classics as opposed to more current literature. What kind of differences do you observe? I think there have been some comments made about how Tolstoy's writing is dictated to some extent by the inclination to comment on the social and political climate of the times.Thinking about that made me think about other authors that used their writng in the same way. Dickens was the author that first popped into my mind, but I think that he incorporated his opinions into his stories and novels by making the plots and situations the characters found themselves in a commentary on the political and social climate of the times. Often, the characters' themselves stood for the greed, lack of empathy, and dishonesty he saw as the ruling classes/government's attributes. It seems Tolstoy was more straightforward in conveying his opinions

gen. 20, 2013, 5:00pm

>21 mmignano11: Perhaps it's a sign of old age, but I find as I get on in years I am mostly reading classics. And when I go back to contemporary fiction, I find something lacking in depth and vision, and just good writing. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised--for example, when I read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak this year, which had wonderful language and story line. There are so many classics I haven't read, that I think I'll be busy for a long, long time. And I also enjoy re-reading classics I read many years ago, which is the case with Anna Karenina. Reading it today at age 60, I have completely different perspective and reactions to the book than when I read it many years ago at 30.

gen. 20, 2013, 6:42pm

That's quite a list.

gen. 21, 2013, 1:18pm

>22 kac522:-I have heard so many good comments about The Book Thief that I am going to move it up on my list of TBR's.

gen. 26, 2013, 3:02pm

Well... I finished. Here's my reivew if anyone is interested:
I'm glad I participated but I can now say that it was not my cup of tea.

gen. 27, 2013, 5:17am

I finished and loved it. Thanks for organising the group read and putting up the threads.

gen. 30, 2013, 8:31am

Hi, I would like to thank you all for the fun ride, I would have never read this one if not for this group so, well I have made a comment here on my thread (in french):

gen. 30, 2013, 8:34am

Hey, I am glad to see more and more of you finish! Congrats for hanging in there. And if you are still chugging along, keep going! You want to tuck this Russian classic under your belt and be more popular at parties. I know I have been.

gen. 31, 2013, 12:29pm

Again, I would like to comment on the writing as opposed to the specifics of the plot. I can't help but notice the differences in this novel as compared to an American epic, say. I'll use an example here to explain what stands out for me:Even though Levin realizes that Kitty is interested in Vronsky, his thoughts in the very next scene are about his brother. While I'm sure he would eventually think about his brother, I think an American author would go right into at least a chapter on how devastated he is on discovering his chances have been squashed. This is not a criticism but an observation. I expected him to mope about thinking and re-thinking what could be done, or why it was so, but the first thing he did was to think about his brother, which of course, introduced us to his brother and moved the action as well as Levin to his visit with him, but it stood out for me, in terms of it being unusual. I hope I'm not being confusing. That said, I am enjoying AK.

feb. 3, 2013, 3:39pm

I'm reading along in Part 5, trying to re-immerse myself in this novel, and the several chapters dealing with the death of Levin's brother are quite interesting. Levin's experience of his brother's death, and the excruciating detail with which Tolstoy describes the brother's last few days (I mean, how exciting can you make a slow death by consumption?), appear to be an exploration of religious faith, death, and the dance one might do with the former in the face of the latter. It's actually a pretty interesting exploration of agnosticism. Tolstoy would have been an interesting dinner companion.

I really do want to complete this novel.

Editat: feb. 5, 2013, 10:52pm

I am well into book 5 - just posted this on the other thread, not realizing - just want someone to promise me that nothing bad happens to Kitty and Levin. They are the only spot of light in this awful train wreck of a book... notwithstanding Tolstoy's skill with words and characterization. It's not Tolstoy. I liked War and Peace.

feb. 6, 2013, 9:12am

>31 nittnut:

SPOILER ALERT - This is for nittnut

Read ahead, it's alright, Kitty and Levin will be fine :)

feb. 6, 2013, 10:47am


feb. 6, 2013, 11:52am

>33 nittnut: well it will all be too bleak otherwise, right !?

feb. 9, 2013, 12:04am


my mantra for tonight - MUST.FINISH.

feb. 9, 2013, 3:56am

I had the same feeling, it was great overall but at the end I really, really wanted to finish and go read something else.

feb. 10, 2013, 1:10am

Finished. Finito. Fertig. Законченный.

My review is here - if you really want to read it.

feb. 10, 2013, 4:09am

Read and like your review, on to new things then !

feb. 10, 2013, 9:22am

Congrats on finishing up! I does feel sweet putting this one behind you. Liberating!

feb. 10, 2013, 3:48pm

Thanks electrice! What a book to try and review! It was difficult for sure, and I didn't say all I wanted to, but I'm hoping as more people finish we will continue to have good discussion here. :)

feb. 12, 2013, 11:25am

Well done, nittnut.
I'm within 50 pages of completion. Levin is waxing existential......

feb. 16, 2013, 1:45pm

No one waxes existential like Levin!

feb. 16, 2013, 7:57pm

I am so far from being done, but I am glad that I started to read it, anyway, I may never have picked it up if it wasn't for this group.

feb. 20, 2013, 2:41pm

I have finished the book and will think about it a bit before I write a review. I am not sure I feel it was worth my time. But then again, maybe.

feb. 21, 2013, 10:33am

HOORAY! Another completion of the tome from hell (or from heaven, depending upon one's perspective).
I liked it a bit better than you did, I think, Karen, but I won't be running out to read more Tolstoy. I know he's a classic. I don't care.

feb. 22, 2013, 9:28pm

I've finished it. Overall I loved it but found the last 150 pages not as good as the first 650 - quite possibly because I got overwhelmed with real life. I'm giving it 4 stars.

I found Anna's paranoia near the end really painful, and when Tolstoy followed that up by Levin's handwringing, I just wanted to finish it. I enjoyed War and Peace more in 2011, I think, but I had more time to enjoy it. I'll definitely be reading more Tolstoy but not right now!

No review from me, just onto the next book - it is going to be escapist crime for the next wee while!

Editat: març 11, 2013, 4:36am

Just finished!

I already knew how Anna's story ended, but I thought Tolstoy's depiction of her state of mind - her unhappiness, agitation, jealousy, disordered thinking etc, was very good. I felt sorry for her, and then even worse for Vronsky. It surprised me how little reaction was shown by the other primary characters to what happened to her.

Thanks for organising the group read, I'm not sure I would have stuck with it to the end otherwise, and I'm glad I did.

març 13, 2013, 8:11pm

#47 - I agree, Amy! That part of Anna Karenina really affected me. I felt like I was inside her head!

març 21, 2013, 12:11am

#48 - :)

març 24, 2013, 1:28am

Did anyone see the recent film with Jude Law, etc? It was very artistic... choppy and weird, but artistic.

març 25, 2013, 8:03am

I loooooved it. That abandoned Russian theater that they filmed in was to die for. And the costumes! And the choreography!

Editat: març 26, 2013, 9:40pm

I too really enjoyed the recent movie with Keira Knightley and Jude Law as well. If you haven't seen them yet, you might also enjoy the Charlie Rose interviews with Keira Knightley (entirely just her, where he probes her understanding re. Anna's motivations) and Tom Stoppard (who wrote the screenplay) and Joe Wright (director), where they discuss the difficulties of adapting the story in words and on screen.

Knightley -

Stoppard & Wright -

Re. the book: I've been reading it off and on since late last year. Not finished yet but I just stumbled on these 2 threads here and may just get enough motivation from the rest of you here to finish the book finally.

abr. 7, 2013, 5:03pm

I'm done! Woohooo! I really enjoyed the book even though I did know how it was going to end. I guess now I can watch the movie. :)

abr. 8, 2013, 7:22am

Go Sanja!

abr. 8, 2013, 7:33am

It looks like this is a year-long project for some people! LOL. I am very glad people are hanging in there and finishing it. It's not always an easy read but ultimately worth it.

abr. 11, 2013, 11:01am

It is going to take me all year but I'll keep going. I'm reading other books as well, and I pick up whichever I feel like reading that particular book.

Anyway, I wanted to weigh in with my feelings about the recent movie. I actually had to watch it twice and the second time I re-wound a lot. What a great movie! The way it was filmed was so original. It seemed to be so subtle that at first I didn't even realize how the scenes were framed within the stage setting. When Anna is putting her son to bed the scene is set within a frame so it appears to be a painting, allowing already beautiful furniture and bedclothes, draperies to be stunning. There are recurring themes within the movie as within the novel, the train,, of course being the most evident. The train station seems tremendous, cavernous, yet upon closer examination it is also part of the set. Part of the magic of the set design is the way it encompassed the scene in its entirety, never short-changing the viewer with painted on pieces and yet was clearly created with economy (not in the monetary sense) I was simply astounded by the artistry shown in the set design, costumes and make-up.