Anna Karenina Read Along Parts 1 and 2

So, the first check-in point for the Read Along of Anna Karenina at Five Alarm Book Reviews. At this point we should have completed the first two parts, making us a quarter of the way through the huge-ass novel.

Well my friends, I’m pleased to say I’m actually ahead! I really wasn’t sure if I’d get along with this book or not, but I really, really do. I just love it and I had to put it down and read something else just so I didn’t lose myself in it.

It was a lot easier to read than I expected. Yes, there’s a lot of description but it doesn’t halt the flow of the book, and I didn’t have a problem keeping the characters and their relationships straight either. There’s a reference list at the front of copy, but I haven’t needed it once yet and that surprised me. I don’t know, it just seems to make sense somehow – I’ve never once been confused by who’s who.

Speaking of the characters… in my copy, the Wordworth Classics edition, translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude, Oblonksy is referred to as, and I quote – Steve. Steve! Not Stiva as in many of your copies. Steve. I can’t even explain how much this grates on me everytime I see it. It’d be like making a movie version and having Anna Karenina played by the most staunchly British woman there is… oh wait.

It surprised me how Anna herself isn’t really the main character. The novel is told from ever-changing perspectives, of whom Anna is only one. Don’t get me wrong – it’s wonderful and all fits together seamlessly, but the other main characters get just as much ‘screen time’ as she does. Also, I really don’t get what she sees in Vronsky – he’s a bit of an ass, really. Saying that, I do like their relationship. It’s just so… beautiful really. They’re not meant to be together, but they love each other so strongly that nothing else makes a God damn difference.

He felt all the torment of his and her position, all the difficulties they were surrounded by in consequence of their station in life, which exposed them to the eyes of the whole world, obliged them to hide their love, to lie and deceive, and again to lie and deceive, to scheme and constantly think about others while the passion that bound them was so strong that they both forgot everything but their love.

I think I like Kitty best. She’s the most innocent character in all this – she continually gets screwed over and it’s not her fault. And yes, she is rather week and could have dealt with certain situations a little better, but I do like her and hope things turn out alright for her.

The Prompts

Have you ever read this book before? What did you think of it? What have you heard about it? Is there anything that you are especially eager or reluctant to encounter in Anna Karenina? What version of this book are you reading? Who is the translator?

Yeah, I’ll definitely be getting a new, Steve-less, copy. Who in their right mind translates the Russian Prince Stephen Arkadyevich Oblonsky as Steve!?

But no, I’ve never read this before – it always seemed to imposing and difficult. I still can’t get over the fact that it’s not difficult at all. The size didn’t help though, as I kept putting it off in case it took too long.

I accidentally looked at the map posted on the check-in at Five Alarm Book Reviews, and now I now how it ends, which blows. So obviously I’m not looking forward to that!


Have you encountered anything uniquely Russian about this novel or could it have taken place in America?

I’m not sure. I mean, there’s a lot of trivial Russian things, like frequent mentions of vodka and snow, but I don’t think anything else really points to Russia.

That said, I don’t think it could have taken place in America. A lot of Anna Karenina refers to the class system and making the right kind of marriage, and the US has never seemed as rigid about that kind of thing. I do think it could possibly have taken place in England though.


What do you think of Stiva? What do you think of his relationship with Dolly? His attitude towards politics?

Who? Oh, Steve. 

He’s an ass, completely and totally. In the very first few pages of the novel, he’s annoyed that Dolly is being over-dramatic about discovering his affair with the English governess. Not guilty, not sorry… just inconvenienced.

That said, I think his attitude towards politics irritates me more.

Oblonsky’s tendency and opinions were not his by deliberate choice: they came of themselves, just as he did not choose the fashion of his hats or coats but wore those of the current style. Living in a certain social set, and having a desire, such as generally develops with maturity, for some kind of mental activity, he was obliged to hold views, just as he was obliged to have a hat.

He just goes along with whatever the mainstream opinion happens to be, without really thinking it through for himself. I can’t stand people like that in real life and I can’t stand them in books either.

When Kitty tells Varenka at the end of Part Two that she will never marry, do you believe her?
 
Of course not, this is a love story!

She fell flat on her face when she tried to be a guardian angel for the infirm, much as she tried, so I really can’t see her sticking to this resolution either.

Do you get the sense that Anna truly feels guilty about the actions she has taken with Vronsky? If not, why do you think?

I think that maybe she did at first, but then gradually became more and more disillusioned by her husband and eventually ended up not caring. The way she reveals their affair to him shows that – she doesn’t really try and protect his feelings. I mean, I know that Karenin tells Anna all the time that he doesn’t care what she does as long as she doesn’t disgrace him in public, but still.

I do think she feels guilty about the confusion she’s putting her son through, but that’s only an indirect sense of guilt.

______________________________________________________

I love this book. I read a page whenever I had a spare moment, and whenever I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to be. Obviously it’s a bit out-dated and looked upon with an apprehensive kind of fear, but I absolutely adore Anna Karenina.

What did you think about Anna Karenina? Click here to see the other Read Along participants. 

Comments

  1. Laura says:

    I'm so glad that you're loving this! My only question: What about Levin?! I LOVE LEVIN!

    1. Hanna says:

      Haha, you're just going through all the AK Read Along posts, aren't you? 🙂

      Yeah, Levin's okay. I like him, but he doesn't really stand out much. I felt bad for him about the Kitty thing and how misunderstood by society he is though.

      Also, I HATE that I know the ending!

  2. hi Hanna! i agree on the Steve anomaly. what could have been the reason for the translators to anglicize Stiva. Stiva (the nickname and not the person) is fine as it is.
    so far, everyone loves this book like i do. i knew how it ended already even before i read the book but this won't stop me from reading and loving AK more.
    thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Ellie says:

    Steve? STEVE? See, this (and the tiny print) is why I've just given away all my Wordsworth Classics – I just can't be doing with 'em. I'm seriously tempted to go buy that shiny big Penguin Classics edition right now though… Bloody hell woman, like you weren't a bad enough influence on Monday! 😉

    1. Hanna says:

      Steve. Honestly.

      I don't really have a problem with any other aspects of the translation, but it's enough to make me buy a new one.

  4. FABR Steph says:

    Congrats on being ahead. How nice that the book is more to your liking than you thought that it may be. I am finding that as well. I was scared at the beginning, but have now settled in nicely.
    Like you, I find that the descriptions are extensive but do not get in the way.
    Kitty reminds me a bit of Melanie in Gone with the Wind. A little different, but the most innocent in the tangled mess.
    Steve? I had no idea that there was a translation like that. LOL That is ridiculous.
    Anna seems to do what most people do when doing wrong. Justify, harden and keep on keeping on.
    I adore this story as well. I am not ahead, but hope to make up for it a bit this week.

  5. Lu says:

    Haha my one friend who is also reading this, is also annoyed at Steve! In my copy Anna Karenina, is called Anna Karenin and Steve is called Oblonsky most of the time, instead of Stiva.

    1. Hanna says:

      Really? Oh, I'm glad I'm not the only one! I thought I was going crazy everytime I saw another post with a character called Stiva!

      He is referred to as Oblonsky most of the time in mine too, but it just makes it more jarring when they say Steve!

  6. Glad you are enjoying it! I read it last year expecting it to be a hard read but like you was surprised at how easy it was and I ploughed through it in about only two weeks. It's one of my favourite books now, you have a treat in store 🙂

  7. christina says:

    I seriously can't even believe Wordsworth can still PUBLISH books after something THAT horrendous. Steve! Ahhhhh…

    Also I think I might be the only person who is somewhat tolerant of Oblonsky. He's not LIKEABLE by any stretch, but I don't have a strong hatred for the man either. If anything I think Karenin is a bigger twit because at least Oblonsky is passionate about Life.

  8. fredamans says:

    I agree her guilt seems more influenced by her child rather than her infidelities. Slightly moral-less.

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