First time reads: Anna Karenina

I’ve been reading Anna Karenina off and on, and I’m not completely sure how I feel about the book. For one, there are so many side stories, I think if I tried to summarize it, I would sound like I was giving away too much of the plot.

It’s about a whole group of people who are all somehow related and are all dealing with adultery. Anna Karenina is a beautiful wife of a politician who falls in love with this guy who’s been flirting with her sister-in-law’s little sister. That little sister rejects one suitor, not knowing that her hot, other suitor will fall for Anna Karenina instead, so then everyone’s in a depressed love triangle. Then some rich people hang out with peasants for a while. (that’s as far as I’ve read)

Here’s the 2012 movie trailer that you might be familiar with. 

I started reading the book during Christmas break when I decided to read the books that Alice read in Season 1 of Classic Alice. After enjoying Crime and Punishment, I felt like I needed to read more 19th century Russian literature. I’m only 1/3 of the way through the book, but I’m fascinated by the three women that have been introduced. It’s not just about Kiera Knightley falling in love with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, even though she’s already married to Jude Law. There are three different women who are affected by three different perspectives of an affair.

In the first chapter, Dolly is the wife whose husband has confessed to cheating, and his sister, Anna, is introduced as the woman who will smooth things over between the unhappy couple. Anna says a lot of things about how her brother is full of remorse and needs his wife… all the things you’d expect her to say to her brother’s wife. At some later point in the book, Dolly ends up at some farmhouse with her kids that happens to be near Kitty’s rejected suitor’s home, and she tries to get them back together. I don’t really remember where she went between her introduction in the city and her appearance in the country, since she’s a relatively passive person, but she takes the place of the wronged wife who knows she’s not loved, but is still holding on. It’s sad, but maybe that’s why I like her.

Kitty is Dolly’s little sister who ends up vacationing at a health spa in Germany to heal her heartache. She falls in love with the lifestyle and charity of another woman and her adopted daughter, and she devotes herself to serving the invalids at the spa. It’s implied that a married man becomes a bit too attached to her, so his wife feels the need to separate them from each other’s company. Kitty doesn’t necessarily try to make anyone fall in love with her, but she likes feeling useful. Just as she fell a little in love with her new friends, the other people at the spa fall a little in love with her. She desires acceptance and love so much, and while she doesn’t actually do anything wrong, a jealous wife decides to no longer associate with her.

Anna, Anna, Anna. After talking and dancing at a ball with a hot guy, she goes home to her husband and child and realizes that her life is boring. She starts spending time with her new lover and his family, and then he becomes a frequent visitor to her home. Her husband likes talking about reputations, so he warns her about reputations, but Vronsky is too hot. (Literally, I think his only character trait is that he’s hot.) Vronsky begs her to run away with him, she says she’s pregnant, then her husband finally figures it out and tells her to end it, “because what will the neighbors say???” But of course the guy is too hot, and I haven’t gotten much further in the book, but I’m pretty sure she picks his body over her family.

While I’m most definitely not an expert in Russian or any other kind of literature, I’m fascinated by these women and their choices. I can’t tell if this is supposed to be the great tragic romance that Hollywood says it is, or if it’s like Wuthering Heights, and I just haven’t figured out who I’m supposed to hate. Is it Anna? Is it Vronsky? I DON’T KNOW!!!!

I’m curious to know if these women will stay in their current roles, or if we’ll just see their current decisions play out for another few hundred pages. What would happen if Dolly confronted Anna about the ramifications of the latter’s affair? What if Kitty became the unhappy wife or the mistress? What if Anna took the place of the hurting wife, or if she watched her child grow up to follow in her footsteps?

I’d love to get these three in a room for some “real talk.” I don’t think Tolstoy’s going to do that, but in my mind, I vote Team Dolly.

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