Anna Karenina is quite simply one of the great masterpieces of world literature. I've read it before, but from the opening sentence I was reminded again of how much authority Tolstoy writes with. The narration is superb. While some say the MAude translation contains inaccuracies, I assume that overall it's good enough.
David Horovitch's reading of Anna Karenina is excellent and one of the best audiobooks to which I have ever listened.
Horovitch captures the principal character's personalities with precision and brings depth to their respective positions and roles in the story.
I was apprehensive about listening to anyone read a lengthy Russian novel, but Horovitch did a brilliant job. His narration was never grating, and he did a brilliant job with both the dialogue and the descriptive portions of the novel.
Hope and Tragedy
Near the top. I would rank it within my top 5.
The story takes you on a voyage of multiple emotions. The character development is grand.
Anna Karenina has been on my must read list for many years. I have been keeping lists – and book lists in particular – since my first summer journal at eight years old. The epic Russian novel appears at the top of many top ten novels lists and has been referred to as “flawless” and “the greatest novel ever written” by two of the most celebrated novelists of our time.
I have owned a copy of Anna Karenina for about ten years. If I have made any attempt at all to read it, I have never gotten much past the first sentence, which is one of the most iconic quotes from the book “All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Last Sunday, realizing for the first time that there has been yet another movie remake – this one starring Kiera Knightly and Jude Law – I decided I’d better read the book before “accidentally” catching it on television.
Tolstoy’s world is mid-to-late nineteenth century Imperial Russia. The primary characters live lavish and eminently superficial lifestyles. Their daily existence is a whirlwind of sparkling balls featuring hair-pieced chignons piled high, and decadently luxurious boudoirs where the aristocratic Russian society of Moscow and St. Petersburg affectedly pepper their speech with French. In stark contrast to the elaborate, but constricted life of the city is pastoral Russia. The agrarian countryside has expansive landscapes, rich soil and an unending sky.
Tolstoy’s romantic masterpiece is as vivid as it is relatable. The book captures the imagination with its straightforward and exact language. Tolstoy stops time as he bores into his characters’ every thought, motive, and facial twitch, even as dialogue is being exchanged. It is a romance – admittedly not my favorite genre – but juicy from the get-go with marital infidelity, unrequited love and a tragic love affair.
The novel is sweeping, with at least two dozen named characters whose lives spiral around the two central protagonists – Anna Karenina and Tolstoy’s alter ego, Konstantin Levin. Tolstoy peers not only into the lives of a few rich 19th century Russians, but into the whole of humanity. The novel has stood the test of time because it reminds us that even the most desirable of circumstances may be unbearable, that bumps in the road may still lead to happy endings, that glamor and frivolity are but fleeting joys, and that family and real love are worth crying for, fighting for, striving for, waiting for.
Anna Karenina is a celebration of human frailty and redemption. Tolstoy says its okay to be flawed, its okay to make mistakes, just keep trying. We see that there are infinite possibilities in life, but we indeed choose our own path. Without seeking to reduce a 150-year old, 900-page classic tome to a few epithets, Anna Karenina is a celebration of life – its beauty and its tragedy – and all the meaning there is to be found, if only we will choose to see it.
I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!
Q. Why did I listen to ‘Anna Karenina’? A. I had listened to ‘The Year of Reading Dangerously’ by Andy Miller, in which he reads and reviews 50 books, and he singled out ‘Anna Karenina’ for high praise. Incidentally, I also tried to get his absolute favourite number one book on the list ‘Atomised’, but it isn’t available as a talking book so I hunted down a hard copy, and I haven’t finished it yet but have struggled so far. This is the problem with recommendations. People’s tastes differ.
Anyway, back to the main point, which is ‘Anna Karenina’: I found it enjoyable, mostly, but it does meander off into politics and philosophising quite a lot. It has been described as ‘the best book ever written’, but, whatever these qualities are that qualify it for such hyperbole are lost on me.
The characterisation is good and realistic, and you are drawn in to sympathise with the characters. There is interesting social comment (the fact that when a man and a woman commit the same social indiscretion, adultery, the man is unpunished while the woman is ostracised and disgraced). The narration is excellent. But the plot is a bit of a disappointment and after the ‘main event’ near the end there is a boring epilogue and I was waiting for it to finish so I could listen to something more interesting.
Maybe I’m just too shallow for old classics, but I wasn’t particularly impressed by this book. 7/10.
I love Leo Tolstoy, from his short stories to War and Peace but never read Anna Karenina because the idea of adultery disgusts me. I finally listened to it and loved it. I enjoyed the story line, the characterization, and the way the two story lines intermingled and played off of each other. I love that it got me thinking and made me respect my own marriage even more. it got me thinking about the role that communication, trust, and respect play into a relationship and how without them love isn't enough.
Having just finished War and Peace, I am probably in the worst possible position to review Anna Karenina with any degree of perspective. I thought War and Peace was one of the best books I had ever read, so going from that to this was bound to be fraught with--shall we say--a complexity of opinion.This book is great. It really is. But to review it under these circumstances would be of little use to anyone, because that which preceded it--at the risk of starting World War III--was so much better. So instead of talking about Konstantin Levin, let me talk about David Horovitch, the narrator, and his performance. This guy knows how to use his voice. It's really quite stunning to experience; he imbues every phrase with exactly the passion and nuance you would expect from the characters themselves. It's as if the characters were hovering over his shoulder, telling him "no...say it like THIS." He is truly a voice "actor" and a consummate performance artist in every sense. If Tolstoy were alive today, he would insist on buying David Horovitch a lavish dinner. Having said that--and this is not a complaint, really--what Horovitch doesn't do is don different voices for each character, as some voice actors do. He switches from accent to accent (and language to language) with great fluidity, but he rarely alters his voice to accommodate the gender of his characters. I don't view this as a shortcoming, necessarily, because unless it's done to perfection it can be extremely off-putting to hear a deep gravelly man-voice trying to sound like a coquettish maiden or a nine-year-old boy. But in this case, because there are so many characters and so much rapid dialogue, there is occasionally some confusion because of this. Be that as it may: If you've read Tolstoy, and also if you haven't, I strongly recommend this audio version of Anna Karenina. It is profoundly great. My only caveat is that, if you're on a no-holds-barred, damn-the-torpedoes Tolstoy binge, you should probably read it before you read War and Peace, and not after.