Monday, December 27, 2010

30 by 30, #11: Read Anna Karenina

In case you aren't familiar with the 30 by 30 Project, here is the original post, with the big fat list.

Back in high school a friend bought me a copy of Anna Karenina for my birthday (I think it was my 16th birthday, and I think it was Ann or Angela, for those who were around back then). I thought it was an awesome gift. I was all about classic novels, and I really liked the picture on the cover.

I know. The picture on the cover is, like, THE most important thing when you are choosing a book to read. And when it's an impressionist painting of a red-head with a piano? Destiny. (I love teenage girl logic.) This was also back in my ballet days, and since Anna Karenina was made into a ballet, and Ballet West performed it, and we went and saw it, I thought this book was even more awesome. So I started reading it.

And then I stopped reading it.

And then I started reading it again.

And then I stopped reading it again.

The cycle continued for years. That's right: years. This is a common problem with books I own. Library books have a due date, and thus a date to be finished by. Books I own, not so much. And so they sit on my shelf for months and years, untouched as I plow through my list of books on hold at the library (though, that can't happen anymore because the library charges $0.25 per hold, and I think that's ridiculous) (stupid library) (I didn't mean it! I still love you, library!).

I kept saying that someday I'd finish what I'd started. And by that, I mean restart the book and read the whole thing. The 30 by 30 Project was the perfect opportunity to force myself to do it.

Well, folks, yesterday was the day. Last night I completed all 800 pages of Anna Karenina.

I'm not going to lie, I was really worried about how long this book would take to read. It's 800 pages. Small print. By Tolstoy. You know, the guy who wrote War and Peace. So I was all geared up to be reading this book for months, forcing it down my throat no matter how much I didn't want it.

28 days. That's all it took. Less than a month.

Ok. So. Would you like a review? There might be some spoilers, so be forewarned.

For starters, I loved it. It was so well written, and the plot moved really well. It's a parallel plot, really, of Anna Karenina and Konstantin Levin. And there are so many little things that I loved. Like how much Levin enjoys physical labor, and that a hard days work makes him feel happier than anything else in the world. Or the sheer happiness Levin has when Kitty agrees to marry him. Or the way Levin stands up for fidelity in marriage and tells Oblonsky that he simply cannot understand how anyone can have an affair. OK, so most of the stuff I loved was Levin.

Anna's story could be called, "Why You Shouldn't Have an Affair." It's very sad and depressing. She makes a decision, and most definitely has to pay for her choice. She loses her son, her friends, her place in society, and all for her love of Vronsky. But she knew that's what would happen when she made the choice. She had to have known. And all the rationalization in the world doesn't change the fact that she broke a vow and brought it all upon herself. While I was constantly frustrated by Anna's situation, poor choices, and intense emotional displays (I wanted to yell out, "Grow up! Quit acting like a child!"), I still enjoyed reading it. (Sort of like New Moon. Bella is an idiot, but we still want to read it.)

But I think my absolute favorite part of the book is the last few chapters, when Levin discovers that life is worth living, and realizes that there is a God. I wasn't expecting it to take a religious turn, but I loved it when it did. I especially love that he isn't brought to believe that there is a God; instead he sees that he's known it all along, and it was just clouded by his intellect all these years. He didn't learn something new, it was given to him from the beginning. He heard a truth and it resonated within him. I love that. That we all know truth when we hear it. Maybe I'm not explaining it well, but trust me, it was good.

So, there you have it. Anna Karenina, DONE.


Kay Hinton said...

Nice job, Shannon! Okay, I'm adding this to my "to read" list. Thanks for the great review.

Sabrina said...

Congratulations! I didn't read the whole review because maybe, just maybe, I'll pick it up and read it too. That is kind of stinky you have to pay for library reserve.

Soper Family said...

Sounds like a great book! It's now on my "to read" list, too. - Ashley

JHD said...

Nice review, Shannon. I think I may read Anna Karenina someday. But I have been toying with the idea of reading Moby Dick so......

Celeste said...

ahh books. I often forget how much that I love reading. I really should remember to READ. Good job Shannon. That's a huge book to finish in such a short time. I love how you're ticking things off your list! It's inspiring.