I can’t believe I’ve actually finished reading Anna Karenina! It’s been sat on my TBR shelf glaring reproachfully for so long that I’d just kind of assumed it would never get read, and since I’ve been reading it for nearly an entire month, it seems like a permanent fixture of my reading life. I’m glad I finally reached the end, but at the same time I kind of miss it.
Parts 7 and 8 for me just confirmed the theory that I seemed to be backwards from everybody else – I like Anna herself and I’m not that fond of Levin. I know, I know! But I’m not. I spent the first six parts trying to prevail against it, but I just had to finally accept it. I can’t even really work out why, although I know he comes across as quite pretentious to me – all the rambling, high-brow lectures are during his POV and he insists on sitting and musing about the meaning of life for most of the book. Oh, and anybody who is ‘underwhelmed’ at the birth of the newborn son is an ass. Sorry.
As for Anna… during each of my previous Read Alongs, I’ve had many comments confessing that that reader didn’t like Anna as a character. I know people tend to find her whiny and selfish, but I don’t know. I think I just kind of ‘get’ her. She seems to think the same way I do, and not necessarily in a good way – she convinces herself she can mind-read and then acts on how she assumes any conversation would go.
And recalling all the cruel words he
had uttered, Anna invented other words which he evidently had wished to
say and could have said to her, and she grew more and more exasperated.
‘I do not hold you,’ he might have said. ‘You may go where you please. You probably did not wish to be divorced from your husband so that you could go back to him. Go back! If you need money, I will give you some. How many roubles do you want?’
All the cruellest words that a coarse man could say he, in her imagination, said to her, and she did not forgive him for them any more than if he had really said them.
Ha, it sounds like a Crazy Person Thing when it’s written out like that, but I do this a lot and it’s harder to stop than you’d think. Anna even resolves to accept blame for an argument but ends up desperately needing to prove to Vronsky how wrong he is anyway. Again, I do this. But this is why I like Anna more than most people, I think. It’s not that I have any experience in abandoning husbands and children, it’s just that she has the same self-defeatist patterns of thought that I do and I can’t help but sympathise with her.
It’s also clear to me that she has severe depression, which obviously wouldn’t help with the above. In modern times there’s no way she’d have been left to founder on her own – she’d have been given the necessary help and medication and perhaps things might not have ended the way they did.
Speaking of… that part nearly killed me. It was so sad that I had to put the book down and go do something else – it was almost too painful to continue. At first I thought a bigger deal should have been made about it, but then I came to appreciate the subtlety. Vronsky and Oblonsky’s reactions are slipped into the narrative neatly instead of being rammed down your throat and I think it worked reasonably well.
Although why why why was that the second-to-last chapter? It makes no sense! That heart-wrenching, depressing chapter about the frailty of life and how fallen women cannot succeed is followed by a chapter of Levin laying in some grass and thinking about stuff? **** off with that one. I understand that Tolstoy was probably trying to do some comparison thing – the end of one life and the beginning of another (spiritual) life, but surely doing it the other way round would have been better? This way, the story just kind of peters out in the most anti-climatic ending in the world.
I have to admit, I was expecting a happier ending. I read somewhere that Tolstoy had written Anna Karenina intending it to be a moral story of the fall of an adulterous woman, but ended up falling in love with the heroine and making the novel much more sympathetic to her. Uhh… not so much. If I were even vaguely interested in cheating on Lewis before, I am now firmly put off the idea. Clearly it does not end well.