I like big books… and I cannot lie, but the novel was imposing 976 pages and I devoured it. I became obsessed. Every spare second was devoted to Anna. My co-workers marveled at my dedication to the book, and more likely than not, grew tired of me talking about it ad nausem. I can’t recall the last time I felt this way about a book… perhaps never. When I had finished the novel I couldn’t pick up another book. It felt disloyal. The world around me was lifeless and dull. Anna Karenina wrecked me in the best possible way, the way you wish all books would wreck you. Life outside of Anna Karenina didn’t interest me. I took notes as I read the novel, and I began writing my own novel. Weeks later and I am still reeling from Anna Karenina. I almost picked it up and began it again. No kidding.
I can’t explain why. It was the right book at the right time, and my reaction to the novel was a complete surprise. I wanted to tackle Tolstoy this year, but I never imagined one book would have such an effect on me. I had built up the book as a monster, a beast that would be too difficult for me to read. But it wasn’t. The language wasn’t challenging in the least, and the story and writing style is very straight forward. The only real challenge was keeping track of the characters, because they all have the same names. (That’s Eastern Europe for ya.) Tolstoy writes about the human experience – jealousy, lust, pity, fear, pain, love, hay, ambition, lust, success, power, lust and hay. (Tolstoy really, really likes hay.) At any rate, it’s a love story. Kind of. It’s not a love story in the sense of a Romance. It’s more realistic than that. In Anna Karenina love is seen as a fate, or judgement, or curse. Love is not something you aspire to, it is something that happens to you and you have to deal with it. Love isn’t always nice or fun. Hell, it usually isn’t. And the themes of love and marriage and parenting and adultery are still very much alive and kicking today.