“Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy’s most famous work “War & Peace” is really long and “Anna Karenina” is no exception. At 700+ pages, it may be one of the longest books I have read.

“Anna Karenina” paints a world of Tsarist Russia where the noble elite control the world socially, politically and economically. The story centers around the heroine which this book is named after, Anna Karenina. She is married to a wealthy politician who is 20 years her senior, andĀ ends up falling in love with a young military man who comes from a wealthy family but has no money of his own.

The story follows her “fall” from a respectable woman to one who is shamed for following her heart. The conflict between her attraction and her duty causes her to become increasingly indecisive until finally she decides to elope with her lover. This decision results in her banishment from upper class society and she ultimately ends up in a self-destructive spiral. Despite her banishment, her lover is still welcome in these social circles; she starts to resent him and emotionally manipulates him. As a final act, she commits suicide by throwing herself in front of a train (the place where they had met) in order to condemn her lover to a life of guilt.

It is a great piece of period fiction and I think it highlights the inequality women faced in the past. However, Anna’s actions left me with no sympathy for her and in the end, all I could think was “she was such a selfish and manipulative woman… good riddance!” I felt that she did not take enough responsibility for the consequences of her action and solely blamed her lover for them.

Either way, this was the 52nd book completed from the BBC list.

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