Book Review: Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina is by far one of my favourite books of all time. My general rule when it comes to books turned into film adaptations is to never watch the film before reading the book. However, for Anna Karenina I had no choice; when I watched the film, I had no idea that it was adapted from a book. A few years later in my final year of my undergraduate degree, I was assigned the book as part a French and Russian Literature module. At first glance, with over 800 pages and the smallest font size imaginable, reading this monstrous novel seemed like a challenge. However, upon reading the first few pages, I was hooked.

Anna Karenina tells the story of Anna, a beautiful woman who falls in love with Count Vronsky whilst she is married and to a prominent man. The tale follows their love affair through Russia and its implications and impact on society and all those around the couple.

The novel is beautifully written to a point where it was almost impossible for me to put it down. Tolstoy is by far my favourite Russian writer as he evokes difficult questions on the audience through his characters. The novel opens with the statement ‘all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ This then propels you to consider the different ways that the families are unhappy and whether or not any of the families in the novel are ‘happy families’.

It is of no surprise that the novel far exceeds the film, as is so often the case. Although Keira Knightley did not encapsulate the fullness of Anna, she did manage to capture and portray her essence on screen. The film lacked depth and perspectives of the other brilliant characters in book, characters such as Levin and Kitty.

Anna Karenina is a love story unlike any I have ever read, it makes Romeo and Juliet seem like mere children playing at love, which they were. Anna and Count Vronsky’s love is passionate, addictive, toxic and self-destructive. The novel questions what it means to love and how we choose love. It is the kind of love story that novels were created to produce.

I absolutely love this book and could read it again and again and again and still gain the same feelings of intensity and obsession that I felt the first time reading it. It is the kind of novel that is perfect for a second lockdown. Thus, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars, merely for the fact that Tolstoy had me read 800+ pages and then wishing that there was more.

Thank you for reading.

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