Reading List February 2011

I only read one book in the month of February, but WOW, what a book!!  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

I must admit that after a maddening experience with Anton Chekhov in high school I was hesitant about giving Russian literature another try, but I am so glad that I did.  Running at 817 pages, Anna Karenina is not light in content or actual weight (I suspect my copy weighs as much as my oldest daughter did at birth).  For a novel originally published in the 1870’s I was constantly amazed about how much of it was still relevant today.

For instance, I just had to write down the following quotes:

It was fine for those who had no daughters to talk that way; but the princess understood that in making friends her daughter might fall in love, and fall in love with someone who would not want to marry her or who was not right as a husband.  And however much the princess was assured that in our time young people themselves must settle their fate, she was unable to believe it, as she would have been unable to believe that in anyone’s time the best toys for five-year-old children would be loaded pistols. (p. 45)

One was the inferior sort:  the banal, stupid, and, above all, ridiculous people who believed that one husband should live with one wife, whom he has married in church, that a girl should be innocent, a woman modest, a man manly, temperate and firm, that one should raise children, earn one’s bread, pay one’s debts, and other such stupidities.  This was an old-fashioned and ridiculous sort of people.  But there was another sort of people, the real ones, to which they all belonged, and for whom one had, above all, to be elegant, handsome, magnanimous, bold, gay, to give oneself to every passion without blushing and laugh at everything else. (p. 114)

Just call me one of “the banal, stupid, and, above all, ridiculous people”.  (Just FYI this is the viewpoint of one of the characters, not necessarily the author.)  The last few chapters had several more quotable sections, but they would be spoilers so I’m not referencing them.

The book also offered and interesting look at tsarist Russia and a peep inside the Russian Orthodox Church.  I wish I could compare those sections with the experiences of A Priest’s Wife as an Eastern Rite Catholic.  Great book that reinforces why “classics” are considered classic.

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2 Comments on “Reading List February 2011”

  1. Kelly Says:

    That’s so funny, because I read this my senior year in college and hated it! I would probably appreciate it more now.

  2. Laurke Says:

    Haven’t read it, but I do have a copy waiting on me. I read War and Peace one college summer, and had to take a Tolstoy break! I think I’ve had Anna Karenina since then, LOL


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