So, it was about time I read some Tolstoy. I picked up Anna Karenina, not because it was an Oprah’s book club book, nor because this particular translation is heralded as the finest of its type, but because it was in the Border’s 3 for 2 pile, and I’m a sucker for that stupid table. I forget what the other two books I got to complete the trio were, but I’m pretty sure I’ve not read them yet, and they’re part of my ever-growing collection of unread novels.
In any event, the book is freaking long. So much of the novel (novels? I don’t know, it’s in 8 parts anyhow) is about establishing the atmosphere and culture, and so little is about what’s actually happening. You could tell the complete set of stories contained within Anna Karenina without the vivid descriptions of Russian culture, and it would take about 125 pages, and look disturbingly like a Graham Greene novel.
Yes, the core stories were of affairs and their destructive powers, and the delusions of power and wealth, and the meaning of children and love and who knows what else. Not a bad story, but I found myself getting bored by the work, having received after about 400 pages my complete fill of texture and zeitgeist, and just sort of wanting it to end. Unfortunately, the book continues for another 464 pages from this point.
The prose is not nearly so clever (or succinct) as Nabokov’s, though I’d say I still enjoyed Tolstoy more than Dostoevsky. If you’re really interested in getting a feel for the 19th-century Russian cultural context, you would be well served to read this novel, but if you’re looking for a dense and interwoven tale of relationships and affairs, love and sacrifice, and all that stuff, get the Graham Greene Novel. 6/10.