I've heard SO much about this book; for years I've heard it called the best novel ever written, the one thing every writer should read to get better at what they do... and now I'm so disappointed! Does anyone else feel the same way?
I felt like it was not so much a novel, as an outlet for all of Tolstoy's thoughts, a great big mash of them that often had nothing to do with the story! Also, I hated how Levin was an obvious stand-in for Tolstoy - I don't know, somehow this book felt "selfish" to me, like Tolstoy was writing it as a kind of outlet for everything in his brain, and not as a piece of story-telling. But... I feel so guilty saying all of this. I guess I'm probably missing the point - because everyone says it's amazing!
I'm just really disappointed :( I really WANTED to like it! And there were some really excellent scenes - especially the dance early on, and Anna's suicide... but overall, this thing just felt bloated!
i JUST put it down and i remembered seeing your post and i would just like to say i COMPLETELY agree, i am very disappointed, Anna, the namesake of the book was just written off in several pages. There were many parts where i felt that it was Tolstoys ranting including the peasant labor and the war against the turks. I feel that i am missing something as well.
I think carping about editing problems in a novel of this magnitude are misplaced. Tolstoy's novel reflects societal concerns and problems in his time and country. Many authors in the 19th century used literature as platforms to discuss issues of concern -- Dickens comes to mind, Victor Hugo, Stephen Crane -- all these giants of literature used their novels to reflect their points of view.
I did find myself skipping over some of the in-depth discussions of land reform and philosophy in order to get back to Anna. I hate to criticise Tolstoy, but I think Anna was given short shrift in order to give Levin more of a role in the novel. On the other hand, Anna was mysterious and perhaps Tolstoy intended her to remain that way.
Nowadays literary fiction drones on and on and gets off on tangential subjects that seem to add little to plot line. It may just be a quirk of writers. I still think Tolstoy was a genius and a great writer.
I must admit I am in full agreement with you. This novel was set for our Book Club reading. One our members is Russian and suggested we read Tolstoy's greatest work, so I was compelled to read it. Maybe I was not in the mood for such a long story and by the time I was finishing it I couldn't wait for the selfish Anna to Jump under that train. I had to read something completely different straight away to cleanse my mind . If one is studying Russian History of this period it would be invaluable but for me it was a big disappointment. I was not the only member of the Club who didn't like it! Maybe we are all just getting too cynical in this day and age.
I read Anna twice in my life. Sure, from our point of view in the modern world we know Tolstoy must be a very depressed mind. Nobody without a depressed mind could make the everybody so depressed. Really, all really great love stories have to have depressed people in them. Casablanca anyone? Every teenage girl knows that. Somehow they just feel the deepest lows and the highest highs. I thank Tolstoy to feel that again, and thank God some of us grow up and become normal and know enough to not be this way forever.
Liz, I believe something I read that Stephen King said, paraphrasing, there are so many good books out there that you would really enjoy, if you start reading one and you don't like it....quit reading it and try something else. My feelings, this isn't high school. If I don't want to read a book or start one and don't like it, I quit reading it.
So glad to hear others express similar views as mine. Greatest book of all time? No, I don't think so. I appreciate Robert's comment paraphrasing Stephen King. Reading a bad book can turn you off reading for a long time. Life is too short to waste on a book that "others" think are great. Everybody's taste is different. Many will look at a painting of a red dot on a white background, and see it as genius-- They are entitled to their opinion, and I am happy to no longer feel it necessary that I climb on board with it.
Gee, I still have not read Anna, but through reading tons of reviews -- a bit of an obsession at times with me -- that convey both positive and negative aspects, I'm obliged to feel as I do about most novels I read, that the reader cannot EVER escape the author's own life and perspective. It does often get conveyed, or attempts will be made to do so.
Despite there being various literary criticisms from which one can slice to pieces a written work, I have always leaned toward the writer to show me the intent, to direct me toward the period, as well as his/her own temperment, at the time the story was written.
Hemingway, for instance, held to a strong sense of the machismo that saturated his behavior, as he held to such hobbies as killing nearly extinct animals, boxing, and yet, somehow fit into his life a love for cats -- 23 of them, in fact, before 1954.
Tolstoy wanted to expose to the reader the problems of his day, the way feudal society and politics were evolving, as well as other intellectual and spiritual concerns that gripped his attention. I tell myself that it would be well worth the effort to read the true history, which I have already begun, before I launch into the book. At present, I'm reading Victorian literature, and although it was assigned to us in the 80's while in college to read Russian lit, it was Solzhenitsyn who I favored then. Maybe I'll be another one who thinks Anna is more than what the naysayers say.