Anna K RAL #1

Book 1 & Book 2
pages 1 - 251
[Of course there might be SPOILERS]

You all!  I did not realize that I would be reading about the lives of so many princes and princesses!  Were all upper class Russians considered royalty?   What IS that all about? (1)  And because of this occurrence, giving my due props up to Tolstoy's Anna K. , I too shall acknowledge myself as Princess.

Book 1 & 2 in a nutshell

 "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." (1)

There's quite a bit of infidelity and falseness going on in these Russians lives.  The novel (tome!) revolves primarily on the lives of Anna, her husband Karenin and lover Vronksy; Dolly and Oblonsky; Kitty and Levin.  There are, of course, a modge podge of other characters that further those three couples plot lines, and they're necessary and full, but excuse my desire to get into MAJOR deets.   Immediately upon the opening chapter we find Dolly quite upset because her husband Oblonsky has had an affair with the help.  She is beside herself and it takes Dolly some persuasion from Anna to make amends with Oblonsky.  Eventually we realize that Vronsky becomes Anna's lover, and Kitty (after refusing Levin's proposal) goes through heartbreak because she was in love with Vronsky but he was only feigning interest (or rather, was quite ignorant of his own flirtation?) and she goes through a period of faking her own Self in pursuit of happiness while abroad.

So here comes the ramblings

  • I found it pretty interesting that Anna K was mentioned briefly within the first couple of pages (her trip to see her brother Oblonsky) but she doesn't actually SHOW UP in the book until the fiftieth page or something. 
  • Anna K is a pretty admirable woman of her times, and from what I've read so far in literary criticism, an exemplary character study of feminism.  Sure, she's having an affair and I get that we're not going to condone that (unless you are Oblonsky, who feels that it is it is unrealistic to remain faithful) but even while having the affair, she's trying to remain true to herself.  I especially like her speech when she tells Karenin that she's in love with Vronsky.  Her reasoning is even more impressive:  "I'm a bad woman, a ruined woman, she thought, but I dislike lying, I can't bare lying, while he (her husband) lives on lies." (219)  Her train of thought is simply, Karenin MUST know she is having an affair and yet he STILL can't call her out on it.  He STILL can't acknowledge what is going on, just like he takes on a false exterior in his career, he does so in their marriage.  
  • There's this quote that pretty much sums up the vibe I'm getting from the first couple of books: "And though this reply meant nothing, the general took on a look as though he had heard an intelligent remark from an intelligent man and completely understood the point of it." (221)  So many of the characters are trying to be something they're not or hiding something they don't want others to see OR pretending they don't see something that is so obvious.  Hence the falsehood of the whole crowd.  I think that the only character who so far has nothing hiding is Levin.  And the level of falseness changes greatly by the person.  There's such a concern for how one is viewed.  After all that's Karnin's largest concern about Anna's affair with Vronksy. 
  • One thing that I'm fond of is I get where the characters are coming from.  They are perfectly human and decidedly real in my mind's eye.  Check out Vronsky.  He totally plays Kitty, right?  But sincerely doesn't think he has.  I mean, he's just pretty dumb about the whole process and because of that you forgive him for unintentionally leading her on. Also, by him falling in love with Anna, he shows growth.  And yeah, he's charming, but he's also losing his hair.  See...it's not as though Tolstoy is creating a champion Prince Charming.  Oblonsky is kinda the same.  I mean, he is such a little playboy, right?  But he makes no shame of it.  It's not as though he is saying one thing and doing the other.  Because actually...he makes it quite clear that life is supposed to be lived and he ends up paying for those choices later.  BUT he never "learns".  (Or at least hasn't yet....) "You must live according to the means of the day, that is forget yourself" (4)
  • Also, does anyone know why everyone is so involved in Anna's affair with Vronsky?  There's a few references in the book stating how the  affluent folks are all judgey about what's going on even though there have been plenty of other affairs in the rich circle.
  • Was anyone else cringing during the whole horse scene?  All I kept thinking was: BROKEN SPINE! BROKEN SPINE YOU ARSE!

Over all I can't believe I was every intimidated by this novel.  Sure, it's lengthy but it is so accessible. I can easily see this becoming one of my all-time favorite novels if it continues at the emotional pace it has been.

"When we dig into our own souls we often dig up something that might have gone on lying there unnoticed." (154)

(1) I realize that I can easily search the netosphere, but alas, I'm lazy.  If you know, PLEASE EXPLAIN!


  1. *applauds ferociously* YAY! I'm so sad I'm not reading along with everyone, but I only read this last year and I'm SO not ready to return. I was going to say some things, but I don't think I will because they might be a bit spoilery SO I'll just say that I'm sooo happy you like it! :)

  2. I don't know, I'm not sure about the feminism. It's not as though Anna is taking control of her own life, she's just changing the man that she allows to control her. It's not even her that makes the decisions about either relationship - even Karenin tells her he doesn't care what she does as long as she doesn't disgrace him in public.

    Saying that, I don't think she's detrimental to feminism or anything or either!

    I think everybody's so involved in their affair because they can see it's not just sex - it's an actual love affair. I used a quote in my wrap-up post about it :)

    OH GOD THAT HORSE! I hated that. I was sat there with my hand over my mouth feeling sorry for the poor thing.

    I'm really surprised at how much I like this book!

  3. hi Princess Christina! it crossed my mind as well why they had titles in their names. apart from the Tsar, they don't seem to be royalty. i'm almost done with Part IV and no one has addressed them as "Your Highness, etc". so far.
    i wanted to Google and find out as well but i admit, these titles have a certain charm to it.
    thanks for stopping by my blog earlier by the way.

  4. I can't believe that I was intimidated at on onset either.
    Yes, the horse thing had me holding my breath.
    I love the quotes that you pulled. They are a nice representation of the story.
    The characters are incredibly real, agreed. I find that to be one of the most astonishing thing about Tolstoy's writing thus far. I feel uncomfortable for the characters at times. There are just some things that are to ugly to reveal about ourselves. I can't stand Stiva, but there is no doubt that he is honest.
    Wonderful post! Thank you for participating.

  5. Ello Princess!

    Oh yes I agree, the horse scene was terrible!

    I can't wait to see where this book takes us next :)

  6. Oh this is my favorite book!

    Loved reading your throughts and yes, Anna was definitely trying to be true to herself in the midst of a lot of judgement about that.

    Anna and her cohorts are not royalty but they were part of the aristocracy. This minority ruled the peasants or serfs of Russia. (Note Levin's commentary in the book about them.) The culture was quite stifling and was a closed society. A way to explain that would be a small town situation. Everyone knew everyone else's business and there was a lot of judgement and stereotypical "expectations" on how to behave. Men usually could do what they wanted to if they could get away with it, but women were upheld to societies values. Anna blew that all off having an affair. It may not seem very scandalous compared to our current society's morals, but in her world, it was extreme.

  7. I gritted my teeth through the horse scene... tragic!

  8. So obviously I didn't follow through on my "I should read this with you" statement.

    Your new princess status doesn't come with beheading powers, does it?

  9. I was kinda intimidated by the book too. Glad I'm finally getting to read it!!! Just in time for the movie in a few months too so I'm happy I'll get to read it first before the movie.


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