Davina Porter's performance of Tolstoy's dauntingly long and involved world classic makes one feel grateful not to have to make this difficult literary journey alone. Porter's voice is pleasant, expressive and versatile; her Russian pronunciations impressive; and her understanding of the work excellent. In an unhurried and confident fashion, Porter reveals the twisting social and personal tensions that ensnare a very mortal married woman who falls into illicit love. Porter's interpretation gives a warmth and consistency to this demanding novel which silent readers would be hard-pressed to approach, let alone duplicate. This is an outstanding example of performance literature.
This is the story of the unhappy family of Anna Karenina. The novel contains much concerning Tolstoy's spiritual crisis and his search for the meaning of life. But it is also chiefly about marriage, and the growth and death of love.
The touching picture of Anna Aarkadyevna Karenina's slow disintegration has fascinated readers for well over a century. Beautiful and charming, Anna lives in a splendid world of her own making. She smokes, rides horseback, plays tennis, takes opium, practices birth control, and (although she is already married) falls in love with a handsome army officer.
Anna's life is played out against a backdrop of dazzling balls and the vastness of Russia's landscape. It is a magnificent story that shimmers with the intensity of intelligence and passion, especially through this superb narration by Davina Porter.
(P)1990 by Recorded Books, LLC; First published in 1878.
"Porter reads magnificently." (Los Angeles Times)
It's easy to condemn Anna, especially since she's always being compared to Levin. The whole structure off the book is Tolstoy's attempt to show how different these two people are. And while Levin is, as Anna's husband would turn the phrase "beyond reproach", what are we to make of Anna? Was she a bad person? Was she evil?
For me, Anna truly lived. Unlike Levin who suffered doubts about everything under the sun, she was led by her passions. Her eyes would half close when confronted with some harsh reality or other while Levin instantly become introspective and longed to do the right thing for the right reasons.
But who had more fun in life? Levin almost missed his opportunity to find live with Kitty (or any other woman for that matter) and even when they were married, as as he was, he was repulsed by the birth of his child; he had to grow to love that pink, wriggling thing. He never seemed to have any convictions about anything and those that he did have seemed to surprise him and never were what he expected them to be like. Nothing was what he expected it to be life be it the symphony, politics and political theory, city life - he was always uncomfortable.
Yet Anna just rushed into every experience and dealt with the fallout later. She knew who she was and even more who she wasn't. She was't tormented by the inner-demons of Levin, she only had to deal with the demons of society instead, and all of them were petty people anyway.
In the final scenes of the novel, Levin has taken up beekeeping and I couldn't help but thinking that Tolstoy was using this activity to show how bees can either sting you or make you honey. Levin got the honey, but he had to wait for it whereas Anna got stung, but that's because she had stolen some honey already. She was like the kids cooking berries over the candles and squirting milk into each others mouths; she lived for that pleasure now and didn't even care to question if the pleasures would continue. She would deal with the terrible sting later.
And she did, too.
But I don't think she was any better or worse than Levin. She merely sought her rewards in life immediately whereas Levin discovered he could have them after death.
Yet they both had one thing in common: they didn't put much stock in reason. For her she was impulsive and for him he put aside intellect to explain life and the universe. The both found meaning in the spiritual.
And I don't want to hang morality on either character because who is to say who really lived life better? True, Anna hurt everyone she ever met, but she lived for herself and if this life is the only life we have then I think she had the right idea. But if you believe there is a life after this one then Levin might have the right idea.
But who is to say is right? Or better?
It's a wonderful question to ask, and this novel presents this dilemma brilliantly.
I loved this book and everyone in it.
I FINALLY finished listening to this book today, all 36 hours and 8 minutes of it, and I have to say it was worth it. This is a long, involved, 19th century novel by one of the greatest novelists in history. It took some work on my part to stick with it and understand it. I followed the story along on sparknotes, which made it much easier, because when I got lost in the detail, or didn't know or remember who a character was, I could consult this website and get those questions answered.
This book is a juxtaposition of two stories, the sad story of Anna Karenina, and the happy story of Konstantin Levin. The book has been analyzed to death over the last 200 years so it is futile to try to do that. I will just give my impressions. When I finished this book, I wanted to cry, not because I was sad, not because I had a feeling of losing something of value, or losing contact with good friends as I sometimes have at the end of a good book, but I think it was because I saw Levin come around to an understanding of who he was, and what his place was in the world. He realized the most valuable things to him were his wife and son. It was like the sun coming out. It made me happy after the tragic story of Anna and her messed up life. In any case, I loved the whole book. I knew it would be long and involved and contain a lot of detail that is not germane to the story. Do not read this book if you don't want to put up with that aspect of the novel. It is a rewarding story with much food for thought and lessons for life. Makes me happy I have made the good decisions I have made, and helps me understand the poor ones. BTW, Davina Porter is about the best narrator of all times. I could listen to her all day . . . and I DID for several days!
Don't know how many times I have tried to read this but listening was a whole new thing. I liked it for the glimpse into Russian history and the caste system there.
This is brilliantly read. I frequently have trouble with the Russian names and the French vocab in print, but the reader is so good that it is all perfectly accessible, and joyful. In my opinion the greatest novel written, and to hear it read in this way is a constant joy. A must have for lovers of true classics
I listened to this audiobook because I had heard that some consider "Anna Karenina" to be the greatest novel ever written. It was beautifully narrated, very pleasant and engaging. Some parts were absolutely enthralling. Tolstoy has a genius for describing deep, inner human drives and motives. A couple of parts were tedious (perhaps inevitable in any work this length). On the whole, it was beautiful, and I enjoyed the unexpected ending of the whole story.
I read this book for the first time recently, having managed to avoid it earlier in life. Reading it as an adult gave each character a side to which I could relate and certainly each one displayed facets I have seen either in myself or in others. While earlier in life one was likely to have picked sides, now I felt like I understood each character for their own situation as brilliantly developed by Tolstoy. By the end of the book you feel that you have endured the ups and downs with the characters and in some ways, they are your familiar companions. It was certainly sad to end the book and lose such new friends.
The reading by Davina Porter was great and I have few complaints. Yes, the names can be a bit cumbersome but that is easily avoided by taking a few notes at the outset with a brief description of each character. In any case, Davina Porter does a good job of clear pronounciation as well as effecting distinctly the specific "voice" of the book characters.
A solid read of an unforgettable book. Highly recommended.
With perhaps the most famous first sentence in world literature we begin the other great novel written by Tolstoi. Very well narrated. For those having trouble with Russian names that, I'm afraid is your problem. Russians likely have trouble with American names. Easily one of the great classics of Russian literature, it also ranks as one of the greatest of "modern novels" of the 19th and 20th century. I read this several times years ago but was pleased to find such a well narrated audio book.
Felt like my life was wasting away while listening! I tried so, so hard to care about the characters, and I found myself dreading it and trying so hard to stay engaged in the story. I wanted to like this story so badly, and I just found it SO boring and gave up about half way through. I feel so disappointed.
Anna Karenina is possibly the best book I have ever enjoyed. The reading of this book by Davina Porter was perfect, she has an amazing ability to do justice to male, female, old, and young characters. I walk every day and listen to books. This Tolstoy novel and the way it was presented by Porter made all my walks special. I will buy other books like Madame Bovary by Porter.
If you care at all about the pronunciation of Russian names, then this otherwise perfect English narrator will drive you absolutely NUTS, putting emphases on wrong syllables and otherwise murdering all names all the time.. In this book the names and patronymics are probably one tenth of the body of text, so it does matter! The "Shish-cher-batskis" - that's Kitty's family - are particularly problematic.
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