Monday, July 18, 2016

Schole Sisters: Anna Karenina...

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way...So begins Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. My Schole Sisters and I finished reading this 817 page Russian classic and met for our final discussion last night.

Throughout my reading of Anna Karenina, many people, who were not in our group, asked me, "What is that book about?" and the best way I could sum it up was, "Anna Karenina is about life."  It's about families and relationships.  It's a story of love and the lack thereof.   It's about a woman, Anna, who is physically beautiful on the exterior, but lives with an ugly, raging internal storm.  She is married and has a wonderful son, whom she adores.  She has wealth, class and high ranking social status.  Yet, she fights loneliness, jealousy, and feelings of emptiness to the point of her self-destructive demise.

In stark contrast, Anna Karenina, is also a story of hope, forgiveness, and survival.  Through the character of Levin, Tolstoy ponders the meaning of life.  We see him wrestling with this idea of faith, whether or not there is a God, and what that really means.  Interestingly, some of the women in our group thought the book was wrongly titled since the story was more about Levin then Anna.

Lastly, Anna Karenina is about the transformation of Russia during the late 1800's.  During that time, Tolstoy's native country was undergoing a huge political shift.  Through Anna Karenina, we see the debate between the aristocratic society and the agricultural peasants.  By the time of Tolstoy's death in 1910, Russia had transformed from a backward agricultural economy into a major industrialized world power.  Tolstory shows us his Russia and some of his possible uncertainty about the future of his country.

Tolstoy was a master storyteller.  His character development was unlike any I've read.  We all knew the events unfolding in Anna Karenina were so morally wrong by Christian standards and yet, everyone of us agreed that we could totally see and understand each character's thought process throughout.  I personally saw parts of myself and various relationships with others in each and every character.  Tolstoy's ability to think like a woman is unbelievable.  Overall, his character development was phenomenal!

Regarding our Schole Sisters group, over a period of two months, we met a total of four times to discuss Anna Karenina.  We ended with ten strong participants who desire to continue.  We all loved the fellowship and camaraderie the group afforded us.  It was a chance to read our own book, not to the children or school related, and have meaningful discussion with other adults.  It was decided we will continue in August by reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and meeting for discussion.  I'm super excited to read through my book list with friends :)

Anna Karenina made a lasting impression on me.  My copy is marked with many tabs and I'm sure I'll be quoting and referencing it for some time.  I am also using Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy as my classic in translation in the 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge.  

1 comment:

  1. A truly great novel that works on all levels: plot, characters, the whole magilla. I could not recommend it more highly, especially in this translation. Nice review!