Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Book Four - Anna Karenina - Part Two

I flew through the first hundred pages but have slowed considerably since. I learned years ago not to read the introduction to a classic (got terribly spoiled once and didn't get over it for weeks) so I was determined not to read the introduction to this one. But I briefly succumbed and allowed myself to read a few sentences from the first page. I discovered two things: 1) Tolstoy set out to write about a married woman who has an affair and portray her "as not guilty but merely pitiful"; 2) He was determined that this novel would not be as wordy as War and Peace.

Seriously, War and Peace is more wordy than this? The descriptions are wonderful, don't get me wrong, but there are so many of them. There are so many characters that I'm not sure who (besides Anna) is the focus of the novel. When I read about a farmer, I got a wonderful description of his farm, the changing seasons, the political issues of the day, the dependable-worker shortage, planting techniques, local birds, and even his faithful bird dog. But then I got a description of a horse race that was almost as detailed, and I'm not interested in horse racing. Plus I can't decide which characters to root for--this one seems like a decent person but then he goes and does something like that!

I'm not enthralled but I'm determined to slog through it and hope there are hidden treasures in store. (Clearly, I'm not a Russian writer. Optimism does not abound in the Russian lit I have previously read.)

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