What is your favorite classic book?
The Classics Club originally asked this question in August 2012 and my answer was Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. I thought for this question I’d pick another one of my favorites. I’m going to venture into Russian territory for this one for two reasons.
1) I think that Russian lit is incredibly intimidating for some people (it was for me!)
2) I read this book before I started blogging and so I’ve never written about it on the blog.
So the book in question… Anna Karenina. This one was an unexpected delight for me. I was expecting a melodramatic romance and lots of “woe is me” bits. Instead I found a novel that delved into personal happiness vs. social expectations, religion, and Russian culture.
The booked is packed with interesting characters, only one of which is mentioned in the title. Anna might be the headliner, but she’s certainly not the only act. The book really parallels the lives and journeys of two characters, Anna and Levin. At the beginning of the book Anna is optimistic. She travels to visit her family to help her brother put his marriage back together. By the end of the book her life has been thrown upside down and she loses her faith.
Levin on the other hand is awkward and pessimistic. He’s in love, but has no idea how to go about wooing the woman he’s interested in. Throughout the book he finds solace in hard labor. Through his struggles and trails he finds his faith. He learns the meaning of true love and understands the difference a good woman makes to his life. Both characters seem to do a complete 180 by the end of the novel.
There is so much more that I’m not even touching on. Tolstoy deals with the social customs at the time, the ease at which people can be welcomed or shunned from society and the rights women didn’t have during that time period, etc. He makes the reader consider the difference between momentary bliss and the sometimes sedate, but long-lasting joy of family, but at the same time he never makes it feel like a preachy cautionary tale.
If you’re thinking about trying Tolstoy I would highly recommend starting here. There are fewer major characters than there are in War and Peace and the plot is easier to follow.
Join in the fun here.