The year I read Anna Karenina

Photo: Zurich Opera House

Photo: Zurich Opera House

Hello friends,

This series was originally posted in 2010.

I am a goal/list person.  Every year I make a list of about 10 things I want to accomplish in the year.  Anna Karenina was the classic I was planning to read. A friend of mine was interested in reading the book too, this series summarizes my experience.

Did you know Anna was published in eight parts? Over time, so we read one part a month.

Searching ‘all things’ ANNA, I landed on Oprah’s website which has more than anyone can read about the novel, characters, discussions etc… With so many having read Anna Karenina with Oprah it’s only fitting that we use her website for reference and to guide our discussion.

About Tolstoy:

As I prepared for this adventure in reading, it was only fitting to learn a little about Leo Tolstoy (from Penguin’s website):

Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 on his aristocratic family's estate south of Moscow. A young life of what he called "vulgar licentiousness" included studying for a degree he did not complete, traveling in Europe, and serving in the military. While fighting in the Crimean War in the 1850s, he wrote short stories that established his literary reputation.

Tolstoy married Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862, beginning a long period of contentment; they had thirteen children. While managing his estate and educational projects, Tolstoy wrote his two greatest novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). In the late 1870s, he suffered a deep spiritual crisis and renounced his former beliefs and literary works. He embraced a rational Christianity that stressed humility, universal brotherhood, and the abandonment of private property. He tried to commit himself to chastity and vegetarianism.

A Confession (1882) described this change in Tolstoy's life and writing. Increasingly troubled by the disparities between the life with his family and the beliefs he espoused, Tolstoy secretly left home in 1910, hoping to find a peaceful refuge. He died several days later at a remote railway station.


PART ONE

I finished reading part 1 of Anna Karenina over the weekend.  I have read parts one and two, I had forgotten how enjoyable the second half of part 1 was to read.

The story starts with Oblonsky confessing that he had an affair to Dolly and over the next 40-50 pages Tolstoy provides the background to the story. We learn about life in Russia along with a little about each character. For me, the story really took off when at the train station, just before Anna arrives in Moscow.

Highlights:

For the remaining pages in part one we watch Anna talk Dolly into forgiving, we meet Kitty whose parents are ready to find her a husband and Kitty meets Anna at a Ball.

Vronksy invites Anna to waltz, the look the two share stays with Anna forever. They do not get to dance but Kitty sees Vronksy looking at Anna. Later Anna tells Dolly that Kitty is upset with her over Vronsky. She claims she was trying to be a matchmaker and that she feels she must return home immediately.

While on the train ride from Moscow to St Petersburg Anna spots Vronsky. He tells her he must be near her. Anna’s husband is waiting to pick her up and meets Vronskys, who asks to call on them. Anna’s husband says Monday’s are good.

Part one ends when Vronsky decides to spend time in St Petersburg.

From Oprah.com: The way that these families interrelate with each other—the marriages and sibling relationships between them—also creates a tight-knit community within the larger community of Moscow and St. Petersburg. It gives us as readers a stage with distinct boundaries upon which to judge the play that unfolds. Keep an eye on it: In the end, this focus on family helps to bring about some of the most powerful and meaningful lessons in the universe that becomes Anna Karenina . If there is a happy family among them, we have yet to meet them by the close of Part One. Click here for a detailed synopsis of part 1

Thank you Ellen for the following discussion questions:

1. The book begins with the fallout from Oblonsky's affair. Both Dolly and Oblonsky have difficulty knowing how to proceed once the affair is in the open. Do you think that Anna's advice to Dolly to "forgive it as utterly as if it had never happened at all," is good advice?

2. How well do you think either Vronsky or Levin know Kitty? What are the differences and similarities in their feelings towards her?

3. Is Vronsky's attraction to Anna 'love at first sight'? What is Anna's attraction to Vronsky.