***Group Read: Anna Karenina (SPOILERS)
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I am hoping that we can spend time discussing as we are reading through each month's 'assignment' rather than waiting until the end of the book.
If we wait until we've all finished the book, it's hardly worth having a spoiler thread.
You're also welcome to start a thread to track your reading this year. It's not a requirement to join in by any means, but it's fun to tell others what you're reading and what you think of your books. Plus, you'll probably get some great recommendations!
I'm still trying to figure out quite how it works. I already figured that if I got behind the group, I'd hold off on the spoiler thread till I caught up. But will the spoilers thread have spoilers just for the part of the book the group is currently on? (I hope so.) Or will people who get ahead of us be posting spoilers about the end of the book? (I hope not.)
I'm so enjoying reading this again. I'd forgotten how much I am tickled by Oblonsky. Even though he was the one had the affair with the children's governess, I was still in his corner as he tried to apologize to his hysterical wife and found myself once again, feeling indignant on his behalf. lol
#11 Oblansky does entertain, but let's not forget the governess is not his only transgression. Speaking of his transgressions, I was wondering what the favor for the widower in the first part of book might be. Any ideas. I was thinking Oblansky gave her a referral to a "doctor" what do you guys think?
It's funny that some of you say you really like Oblonski, I have a soft spot for him too, but at the same time I get the feeling that Tolstoj wants the reader to think he is an air-headed immoral figure... I sort of got that feeling, especially when he has lunch with Ljewin - the contrast between the two is just so big that there's got to be some sort of meaning. Although Ljewin is a bit boring and shy, I would like to come to his support.. I think his clumsiness makes him the most likeable character.
I admit, my soft spot is for Konstantin Levin. I hope Kitty falls for him in the end, but I am not holding out much hope so far!
I like the term 'soap opera' as that does describe the feel of it so far. I get the inkling that the soap opera-ness of it will only increase as the story unfolds. Looking forward to it.
On the subject of Oblonsky, I think Dolly misjudged him. Sure he had a fling with the governess but he did confess and he is really sorry. I think she should forgive him and stop with the hysterics already.
"Stepan Arkadyevitch was a truthful man in his relations with himself. He was incapable of deceiving himself and persuading himself that he repented of his conduct. He could not at this date repent of the fact that he, a handsome, susceptible man of thirty-four, was not in love with his wife, the mother of five living and two dead children, and only a year younger than himself. All he repented of was that he had not succeeded better in hiding it from his wife. But he felt all the difficulty of his position and was sorry for his wife, his children, and himself."
I suppose that he does feel for Dolly, but that he is sorry mostly for himself?
And sorry for himself mostly because affairs were so common that it doesn't seem right to him for Dolly to be annoyed in the first place. And even she seemed to acknowledge that angle -- that she wasn't surprised that he strayed so much as surprised that she wasn't able to blow it off as easily as society expected her to.
I wish that Kitty would actually speak up and say what she really wants but I am sure that would go against the times.
I have finished February's section and came across two quotes that really grabbed me.
Levin to Stepan Arkadyich:
"Maybe it's because I rejoice over what I have and don't grieve over what I don't have."
My mother has often told me that though she was poor all of her life she was happy because she never wanted what she couldn't have.
The other quote is Stepan to Levin:
"Some mathematician said that the pleasure lies not in discovering the truth, but in searching for it."
Oh, if we could only live by those two practices; how much happier we would be.
Anna seems very complex. At first, she comes across in a very positive way, but then . . . we see hints in how she chooses her words with Dolly, that she can be a bit manipulative. Best of intentions, perhaps, but definitely trying to help her brother. And then at the ball . . . oh, I didn't like her then!
I, too, am surprised at the lightness. I did expect a more difficult reading experience here. I'm actually enjoying this somewhat, though it's really not my cup of tea. (I don't like soap operas, either . . .)
My feelings have changed about Oblonsky i don't like him as much as i did. I still like Anna and Levin as well now.
The funny thing is in the past i hated books that flitted from one character to another i used to get very confused but i really love it in this book.
It can only get worse from here?
Not really sure what to think yet. Adultery is not my favorite reading topic, but I'm looking forward to next months task.
Depending on how much of a message the author intended to send, it's possible that some characters will experience 'virtue is its own reward' type happiness as a pointed contrast to the adultery thing. But Russian novels are so famously bleak as just a universal that maybe not. I've only read Crime and Punishment so far. And it was....inconsistent.
By the way, don't Kitty's parents remind you of the Bennetts in Pride and Prejudice? The same decorum-crazed mother (with the same views on marriage/eligible bachelors) and the same doting but dry father... Any influences there? Or is a marriage like theirs simply archetypal?
My favorite quote so far, from Levin in his conversation with Oblonsky about adultery: "Don't steal rolls."
I wish Levin would be a little less straitlaced, and I think that his idealized view of marriage is going to be a challenge for him when he does finally get married. I do like that he's so kind to his wayward brother even before he realizes that he's so sick.
I think I'm having the same problem I had when I tried reading Jane Austen. I just don't care much about the loves and mores of "society people."
Re. liking the characters - I quite like both Levin & Kitty, and I actually am more interested in their stories than Anna & Vronsky's. I am hoping that they'll end up together. (Or perhaps this Varenka might make him a good wife. Hm ...)
I also can't help kind of liking Oblonsky against my better judgement. I know he's selfish and feels entitled to do what he wants, but there's something about his good humor.
I was wary of Vronsky at first - I thought that he'd soon get tired of Anna once the chase was over. I'm still not sure about him, but he seems to really be in love with Anna, and she with him. Even if it's more attraction and passion than love, well ... that's understandable. She didn't have that with her husband, and it can be irresistible. And in the time and place she's living, she doesn't have the option to simply divorce her husband. Leaving him would mean losing her son, her friends, her place in society - and after all that she could still never be married to Vronsky.
I'm wondering how much my reading of their story is being affected by the ending being so well known.
A passage from back on p.100 (ch. 29) has stayed with me as an illustration of Anna's character:
"Anna Arkadyevna read and understood, but it was unpleasant for her to read, that is, to follow the reflection of other people's lives. She wanted too much to live herself."
Anna wants to experience everything, and doesn't seem to care how her actions affect others.
Also, with an attitude towards reading such as that, I don't think she'd be hanging out on Library Thing!
I agree with Caroline, good observation about Anna :)
I love the arguments and discussions Levin gets into. He's so questioning - he's not as stubbornly set in his views as his brothers or Stepan or some of he neighbors. He does have strong opinions but he can see different sides of things. And he really cares about these issues more than his brothers or friends do.
I laughed at how excited he was to meet "the old man halfway here" who seemed to prove some of his views about the Muzhiks. And I loved the argument he had with Sviyazhsky about education - esp. Levin's story of the woman and the 'screech-hag' that seemed to both of them to prove their points. :)
I also like Anna though, so I'd be curious to hear why others don't. I feel for her. She's stuck in this loveless marriage and she doesn't have a lot of options. She can't simply get divorced and move on with her life with the man she loves. As far as that goes I actually feel for her husband as well, even though he's not as sympathetic a character. (How awful when he says that Anna's affair has made his feelings toward his son change just as they have toward Anna!) But he's stuck too. To him, it doesn't matter if he and Anna aren't in love. They're married, and they're supposed to stay married, and she betrayed him.
Vronksy I'm still unsure about. There are passages where it seems as though he truly loves Anna and would do anything for her, but I mostly feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop with him. That he could be easily distracted by someone else if things get too difficult or messy with Anna.
It's funny though, given the title of the book, that I really don't care as much about Anna's story as I do about Levin's. That may be because I know how Anna's ends and don't know what will happen with Levin. But I think it's also partly because Levin's the more likable character, and his story is more fun to read.
That is exactly how I feel about Vronsky - after all, he got distracted by Anna and so dropped Kitty. No trust in that man whatsoever.
I agree about Levin being the more likable character. I would much rather read about him than Anna, who I am not much caring for at all.
Kitty is okay, but she needs to mature a bit more, IMHO. I think she will continue to grow on me.
I don't much care for the other characters either.
Anna seems to think that she is destined to do certain things, even if they hurt other people. She knew she was hurting Kitty, but kept on flirting with Vronsky. I do feel sorry for her, but I can't say that I 'like' her character.
Like Stasia, I don't trust Vronsky, and I keep suspecting that he does not genuinely love Anna.
I'm reading (and loving) The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine. One of the characters just made this observation about herself:
"She had never read Anna Karenina. Odd. But was it so odd? She had started Anna Karenina numerous times, and with each attempt had been flooded with a startled anxious concern for Anna and her comfort that made her close the book in panic. She didn't want to know what she already knew." (p.201)
So, something bad is going to happen, probably to Anna. I will be brave, and face Anna's future. It helps to have all of you doing the same!
That's a nice way to put it. I love that too. :)
First of all, Kitty & Levin. :) I had a smile plastered on my face from the start of Stepan & Dolly's party (Stepan getting his guests to mix - fantastic) to the meeting at the Scherbatsky's the next day. The whole thing was so sweet - the shy, happy looks, the initials game, Levin not being able to sleep and keeping Sviyazhsky's family up, and then going over to Kitty's in the morning before anyone was awake, how happy her parents were - I just loved it. I'm really hoping that part of the story stays happy!
And then there's Karenin/Vronsky/Anna. Oy.
I was really upset with Anna for having Vronsky come to her at home. I've been sympathetic with her all along, but that was so selfish and unfeeling when Karenin was completely looking the other way and asked only that Vronsky not come to his house - a very understandable and reasonable request!
I felt for Karenin when Dolly was trying to persuade him not to divorce Anna, and I understood his thought that everything would be easier if Anna just died, so I was really surprised at the change of heart he had! That whole section surprised me in fact - Anna's calling for Karenin and her reaction to him, his forgiveness of her and acceptance of Vronsky, and Vronsky's suicide attempt. Quite the roller coaster!
At times in the book so far I've felt dislike for these three and their actions, and at times I've felt sympathy for them. This part of the story made me feel more strongly the harshness of their circumstances. They're all so trapped by the laws and the morality of the time and place. They have so few choices.
So section five ~
I adored Levin's reaction to his friends teasing him about all the fun he'd be missing once he was married and his wife didn't allow him to go hunting with them.
"The idea of his wife not allowing him pleased him so much that he was ready to renounce for ever the pleasure of seeing bears ... Levin did not want to deprive him of the illusion that there could be anything good anywhere without her, and so he said nothing."
So sweet. Levin has become one of my all-time favorite characters. And I love that Kitty not only insisted on accompanying Levin to see his brother when Levin thought she was too refined for such a thing, but that she was so strong and helpful and opened his eyes a bit. I love that she's not being a princess and wanted to jump right into the work of her married life.
This beginning to their marriage is written so touchingly while still being realistic. I love the way Tolstoy conveys the devotion they have to each other while they're both still adjusting to married life and learning about each other and not always sure what to do or say.
And then Anna/Vronsky/Karenin -
So Vronsky is bored and he can't comprehend that Anna won't be accepted in society. I'd hoped for better but I'm not surprised, as self-centered as he is. Anna at least understood what she was giving up to be with Vronsky and made that choice with her eyes open.
I was glad that Anna wanted to see Seryozha, and I was happy for his sake that she was able to do that.
I feel bad for Karenin, grasping at straws trying to make some sense out of his life. Hm ... wonder what will happen with this scheming countess Ivanovna ...
And for the first time, I felt sympathy for Karenin.
Levin & Kitty were working my nerves a little in this section. Especially Levin. His jealousy might have seemed a little cute when he was newly in love but he should be sure of Kitty now. She can't even talk to anyone without him getting grouchy, and if anyone flirts with her he acts as though she's having an affair! And she should have more backbone. Of course she is young. And living in the 19th century. In Russia. So maybe I can't really expect her to assert herself more.
Levin was endearing again during the elections. I liked that he was so confused, because I too had absolutely no idea what was going on. :p
I felt a little sorry for Anna again. Her depression and neediness is pushing Vronsky away, which makes her more depressed and clingy, and pushes him further ... She can clearly see what's happening and where it's leading but she can't seem to pull out of it.
Not that he's without fault. I think he would have gotten bored eventually anyway.
I feel bad for their child. Anna admits she can't love her, and I didn't realize that legally the child belonged to Karenin! That was interesting.
On to part 7!
Even knowing that Anna was going to kill herself, and how she was going to do it, it was still a bit shocking when it finally happened.
Anna's depression and downward spiral were so well written. Her inner turmoil and circular thinking and how everything and everyone was suddenly irrationally disgusting to her was so well described. I liked that she seemed to have some clear thinking there near the end about the nature of her relationship with Vronsky, and about what she did to Seryozha. It almost seemed hopeful.
I felt like her death should've felt more sad. I don't know if it didn't because I knew it was coming, or because I never really warmed up to the character. I felt more for her circumstances as a woman of that time and place who left her husband for another man than for Anna in particular. That she couldn't simply marry Vronsky, that she didn't have many options if she decided to leave him, that she couldn't see her son if she wasn't with his father, her being cut off from society ... you can understand her desperation.
There seemed to be even more great writing in this 7th part of the book than usual. Death and birth being particularly inspiring maybe. I loved Kitty and Levin anticipating and during the birth of their child, and those scenes provided one of my favorite passages in the book:
"He knew and felt only that what was being accomplished was similar to what had been accomplished a year ago in a hotel in a provincial capital, on the deathbed of this brother Nikolai. But that had been grief and this was joy. But that grief and this joy were equally outside all ordinary circumstances of life, were like holes in this ordinary life, through which something higher showed. And just as painful, as tormenting in its coming, was what was now being accomplished; and just as inconceivably, in contemplating this higher thing, the soul rose to such heights as it had never known before, where reason was no longer able to overtake it."
One short section left - curious to know what the main characters' reactions to the tragedy will be ...
Part 8 was a little bit of a letdown after the amazingness that was part 7. Even though two months had passed since Anna's death, I was expecting there to be more reaction to it than the short passages in the train station with Vronsky. After such a major event I was getting impatient with chapter after chapter of the men going on about politics and even of Levin struggling with his thoughts on faith. (Though there was some great stuff there with Levin - he was still touching and made me smile.)
I was also hoping Varenka and Sergei Ivanovich might get together. I didn't mention before that I loved their scenes in part 7. Ah well. I don't need Hollywood endings. :)
I was glad of the few little scenes with Kitty and Levin so that the last part wasn't ALL politics and philosophy.
There was an interesting comment in my introduction (which I read last in case of spoilers :) that most of the major characters and many of the minor were closely drawn from people Tolstoy knew (with Tolstoy being Levin) except for Anna and Vronsky. It said that many of the scenes before Kitty & Levin's marriage - the way he proposed, his confession to her, arriving at her parent's house early, his shirt being missing - were from his actual experience with his wife.
(Tolstoy did know of a woman who threw herself under a train after being jilted by her married lover - an acquaintance of the Tolstoy's - but she bore no other resemblance to Anna.)
Very glad I finally read this. I really enjoyed it.
Is anyone besides myself surprised that the novel did not end with Anna's suicide? I always assumed it did.