Anna Karenina Read Along Parts 3 and 4

I can’t believe I’m half-way through Anna Karenina already! It’s been much less of a struggle keeping up than I expected and I still love the book as much as I did during Parts 1 and 2.

That said, I did lose interest a fair bit during Part Three. It seems the complete opposite of the rest of the book so far – it’s genuinely just Levin sat around discussing farming and peasants with a lot of acquaintances. For a hundred pages. I started reading it on a train to Manchester… then went to sleep instead. Then I tried to read it at home… and went to sleep instead. Instead I thought I’d read it on the train to Bradford… but went to sleep instead. You get the idea.

I just don’t understand it – the rest of the book is so fast-paced and so passionate, and it really kind of ‘clunks’ when there’s a huge farming section plonked down in the middle. My notes on this section are very mature and very in-depth – ‘Fucking, FUCKING FARMING! I don’t CARE!’

Section 4 was amazing though. It brought back everything I loved from the start of the book and more. 

I fell in love with Karenin this week. His feelings for Anna are so complicated and undergo so many changes that I can’t help but pity and respect him. He’s hurt and angry, but still wants to achieve the best possible solution for both of them. In fact, it’s his inner monologue about wanting to punish Anna that signals the end of the dreary farming section, and I swear Tolstoy couldn’t have chosen a better opening.

What would happen to her and her son, toward whom his feelings had changed as they had toward her, no longer occupied his mind. The one thing that preoccupied him was the question of how he could best divest himself of the mud with which she in her fall had bespattered him: of how to do it in the way which would be most decent, most convenient for him, and consequently fairest, and how she should continue his active, honest, and useful career.  

Conversely, I like Vronsky less than I did last week. Although he’s not treating Anna as badly as he did Kitty, he can be quite cold sometimes. It’s like once he’s achieved his aims, he’s not quite as bothered as before.

Lenin… eh. I know everybody else fell in love with him last week, but I don’t really see it. I just don’t feel strongly about him one way or another. Aside from the farming. The farming made me want to stab him. I like his relationship with Kitty though, and their little chalk game. When Levin gives Kitty his journals to read, I checked the notes and apparently Leo Tolstoy himself gave his diaries to his bethrothed and it greatly upset her. Aside from how amazingly interesting I find that, I guess women didn’t like finding out about their future husband’s exploits!

Parts 3 and 4 seem a lot more cultural than the earlier parts. There are a lot more aspects that remind you Anna Karenina is set in 19th Century Russia, and some of it is fascinating. I loved learning about the divorce law of the time – divorce could only be obtained if proof was discovered of adultery, and then the guilty party could never remarry. Even the health issues interested me – the puerperal fever, which I had to go and look up. ‘Doctors are gentlemen, and gentlemen’s hands are clean’ – from a non-fictional doctor of the period.

He did not acknowledge it to himself, but in the depths of his soul he wished her to sufffer for impairing his peace of mind and his honour. And having reviewed the possibilities of a duel, of divorce, and of separation, and having again rejected them, Karenin came to the conclusion that there was only one course to be followed: to keep her with him, hiding from the world what had happened, and taking all the necessary steps to put a stop to her love-making, and above all (though he did not confess this to himself) to punish her.

Has everyone seen the movie trailer, the new one with Keira Knightley? Notice all the raunchy sex scenes? Funny that, because there are none in this book. It’s barely even implied that Anna and Vronsky have sex, but in the film they clearly feel the need to demonstrate Keira Knightley’s gasping face, that somehow manages to pout even when in the throes of ecstasy. Grr.

I really, really, really like this book. I drifted off for a while during Part 3, but 1, 2 and 4 are so worth ploughing through the farming (see what I did there? 🙂 ) chapter for. I care so deeply about the characters – they’re all perfectly real to me, each with their own skills and flaws. I’m not really sure where the story can go now, but I can’t wait to find out.

The Prompts

How do you feel about the fact that Levin has taken on the work of a laborer, mowing right along with the muzhiks? How does this endear him to you as a character?

I just… don’t feel about the fact. I love the Kitty/Levin subplot, but I’m really not interested in his farming escapades in the slightest. Like I said above, I can either take Levin or leave him as a character – I don’t love him, but I don’t hate him either. Just his farm.

What do you think of Karenin’s choices regarding Anna?  If he were to handle the situation in a morally upstanding way, what would be his best course of action?

I don’t know, morality is subjective. It depends on to whom he’s trying to be morally upstanding – to him, to Anna, to society or to his religion. With regard to Anna, the right thing to do would be to release her with a consensual divorce and let her be free to live her life with Vronsky. With regard to his religion however, divorce is a sin and moral standards would demand he keep hold of her and try to redeem her.  

Visit the other Read Along participants here.

Comments

  1. fredamans says:

    I'm not loving it, but I do enjoy some of it, a lot more than I did last week.

  2. Laura says:

    But but but but Levin! He's like the only character who isn't a douchebag in some way! (I am not exactly a fan of Anna-the-character…) Although I kind of agree about the farming, BUT I was a bit like 'Tolstoy, are you talking about Communism about 50 years too early? Because, I LIKE!' But in practical terms, yeah, maybe not so much!

    1. Hanna says:

      I'm not a massive fan of Anna-the-character either. I can deal with her selfishness- after all, she can't help loving one man more than the other. It's the woe-is-me thing that makes me dislike her.

      I agree with his POINT, just not his deliverance 😛

  3. FABR Steph says:

    I am so glad to hear that you are easily keeping up. "F…F…Farming…" LOL. My words exactly! I struggled with part 3 too. I wonder if readers who lived during Tolstoy's time would find all of that agriculture stuff interesting. I imagine that they might, at least more than I did. I have come to really like Levin,despite his slow chapters. The fact that he turns against much of what is expected of him and turns toward his heart's desire makes him a winner in my book.
    It is unbelievable how much I like Karenin compared to last week. I think that Dolly and Karenin should run into the land of Happily Ever After.
    I wish I knew more about the higher society in Russia during this time. It would add some insight into the moral dilemma that Karenin faces. I agree that morality itself is subjective, and I imagine that society is just another thing to consider.

    1. Hanna says:

      I was wondering what readers of the time about about the farming too. They very, very briefly touched onto women's rights and I DID like that, but I'm not sure I could have endured 100 pages of it!

      I know, I really like Karenin. He's flawed, but he knows it and he just tries to do what's right. And then when he gives in and just tries to make Anna happy, she throws it back in his face.

  4. Levin helping his workers was great. the other "ramblings" about farming was dull for me as well although as i mentioned in my post, some readers might find them informative or even amusing. it was clearly Tolstoy's impressions of 19th century farming in Russia. it seemed to be a big deal for them back then.

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