Anna Karenina has been my bed book for a little month and what a masterpiece ! I haven’t read a lot of Russian authors but I’ve heard about them of course. They had a big influence on the French authors of the end of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Anna Karenina takes you to the Russia before the Russian revolution, filled with princes and princesses, with a brilliant, highly educated, multi-lingual aristocracy who travels around Europe, speaks English and French fluently, knows their painters and writers and opera singers.
Tolstoy depicts with a high level of realism the society of the 19th century.
The novel opens on a revealing sentence : Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. We follow the destiny of three different couples. It all starts with the Prince Stepan Stiva Oblonsky, in Moscow, who is in big trouble because his wife has discovered that he had been cheating on her. Stiva is a very attaching character in his insouciance. He spends his money without thinking, so even though he has a good position, he also has a lot of debts. He calls his sister to help him with his wife… Entrance of Anna Karenina… She is everything a lady could be, beautiful, intelligent, educated, brilliant, the kind of woman who leaves everybody breathless when she enters a room. She’ll help Stiva and prevent a bad situation for him. During that little intervention, she meets the count Alexei Vronsky and falls madly in love with him. Anna goes back to Saint Petersburg to her husband, the cold, bureaucrat Count Alexei Karenin. Vronsky follows her to Saint Petersburg and they start a torrid affair. Meanwhile Konstantin Kostya Levin, one of Stiva’s old friend, arrives at Moscow to visit him but also to ask Princess Ekaterina Kitty Shcherbatskava to marry him (I love those endless, unpronounceable Russian names). She refuses because she’s in love with Vronsky.
I won’t say more to not spoil the multiple developments that occur in this 800 pages long novel. It definitely worth the effort.
I give it a 9/10.