I don’t think I’ve ever put off writing about a book for as long as I’ve put off finishing up April’s AP English Challenge selection. I started Anna Karenin(a) on April 4th, and finished it on June 13th, effectively derailing the one AP book a month plan in its entirety. Anna Karenin(a) is vast and complex and there are so many things to say about it. I’ll chalk my delinquency up to 50% intimidation and 50% laziness.
I just reread my progress report that I posted on May 27th. I don’t know that I have a ton more to add at this late date, but I’m going to give it a try. The second half of Anna Karenin(a) details Levin and Kitty’s wedding and the first years of their marriage, as well as Anna and Vronsky’s relationship after Anna officially leaves Karenin. Levin learns the joys and stresses of marriage and parenthood. Anna goes a bit crazy. She becomes more and more insecure. Her relationship with Vronsky is all she has. No woman of society will be seen with her, so the only people she sees socially are Vronsky’s friends who are rebel enough to risk their place in society by meeting Anna.
Levin’s story continued to interest me far more in 2013 than it did in 1993. Sometimes he frustrated me, like when he has trouble bonding to his newborn son. I’m not a parent, but I thought there was some sort of biological imperative that causes people to bond to their children. I know that I take a while to bond to new pets when I bring them home, but that’s kind of different. Can some parents in the audience tell me if bonding to a human child takes time? And I loved Kitty—she is simply a wonderful human being, probably too good to be realistic, but she does make a youthful mistake in initially wanting Vronsky over Levin, and this almost destroys her. But she grows from this experience and it allows her to love Levin more completely than she would have if Vronsky never rejected her.
Reading Anna’s breakdown was like rubbernecking past a terrible traffic accident. I couldn’t turn away even though it was painful to read. I wish I could remember what I thought of all this as a sixteen year old. At thirty-six, I was equally angry at Anna for putting all her happiness on Vronsky’s shoulders, as I was so devastated for her that things were not working out the way she desperately wanted them to.
Any attempt to write a concise but complete review of Anna Karenin(a) will inevitably fail. It is over eight hundred pages and took me over two months to read. It is not for the faint of heart, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it. I think every lover of literature needs to read it. I am sure it is not perfect, but I am not the one to find its imperfections. I will leave that to those more well-educated in the art of literary criticism. Rereading this book makes me want to read War and Peace, because if Anna Karenin(a) is not Tolstoy’s masterpiece, I want to read the book that is.