Published May 31st 2004 by Penguin Classics (first published 1877)
Acclaimed by many as the world's greatest novel, Anna Karenina provides a vast panorama of contemporary life in Russia and of humanity in general. In it Tolstoy uses his intense imaginative insight to create some of the most memorable characters in literature. Anna is a sophisticated woman who abandons her empty existence as the wife of Karenin and turns to Count Vronsky to fulfill her passionate nature - with tragic consequences.
Levin is a reflection of Tolstoy himself, often expressing the author's own views and convictions. Throughout, Tolstoy points no moral, merely inviting us not to judge but to watch. As Rosemary Edmonds comments, "He leaves the shifting patterns of the kaleidoscope to bring home the meaning of the brooding words following the title, 'Vengeance is mine, and I will repay.'"
S1: E2 Initially mentioned during Rory's first day at Chilton in her English Literature class, the teacher discusses Russian literature, and how it was influenced by both English and French culture. He references Russian author Count Leo Tolstoy being inspired by Dickens' David Copperfield while writing his best-known novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
S1: E16 While we're unsure if Rory has already read Anna Karenina pre-Chilton, or if it was a race to catch up with her classmates, Rory lends this book to Dean, describing it as one of her favorites, to which he complains yet submits to give it another try (as in, an additional try, Dean? I don't think we believe you).
S4: E12 Luke and Lorelai are discussing Jess and Liz using Tolstoy's famous first line.
LUKE: Families. I mean, they're just messes. It's like this - spilled drink that just keeps spilling, and ya gotta keep cleaning it up, and you scrub and you scrub and you just can't get the stain up! Show me a happy family - just one. Didn't that Tolstoy-guy say something about families?
LUKE: It's a famous thing he said. It's like: "all families are unhappy" …or, or, or "happy on the surface"… or "unhappy in the same way"…
LORELAI: Sounds a little incomplete.
LUKE: Well, y'know, maybe he couldn't complete the thought because he was dealing with his stinkin' family.
LORELAI: Do the Hallmark people know about you? 'Cause you're a natural.
My first takeaway is that Rory likes any book that has a reputation of being impressive. She later takes an entire class on Russian Literature, of course she has read Anna Karenina. As for it being her favorite book, Dean should probably have taken his own critical reading skills a little more seriously. Watch out, Dean. This is one of the first examples of Rory desiring Dean to become more than he is, and Dean sacrificing his own real interests. Tolstoy wrote this book as an intellectual and unbiased perspective of our mind's war of temptation versus duty and explores our choices as simple decisions in which the outcome must be accepted. One can deduct that Rory has an urge towards an adventurous and passionate life, in comparison to the driven and result-oriented self-discipline she organizes for herself.
As an adult in AYITL, she may have picked up Anna Karenina in her childhood room, it being one of her favorite books, but it is also a symbol of her current relationship status with Logan. Anna and Vronsky are living in a passion-driven outlawed relationship looked down upon in society where they are constantly running away from their real lives, much like Rory and Logan who partake in a romanticized and somewhat unrealistic clandestine affair.
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
- Book 1, Chapter 1
"Abstractly, theoretically, she not only justified but even approved of what Anna had done. Weary of the monotony of a moral life, as irreproachably moral women in general often are, she not only excused criminal love from a distance but even envied it." - Book 6, Chapter 20
"Man has been given reason in order to rid himself of that which troubles him."
- Book 7, Chapter 28
This book is long, people. Long enough that the idea of finishing it is enough to make you pull through and keep turning the pages so that when you're finished you'll feel like you've really accomplished something. Long enough that Goodreads had a Twitter thread asking, "If you were transported to the setting of the book you're currently reading, where would you be?", to which I replied that I would be in Russia for this very long, long amount of time which then gained multiple responses regarding others' #MyFirstTolstoy experiences and the length of such Tolstoys and Dostoyevskys. To be short, I'm ecstatic that I have now finished it.
WHAT THE WHAT?:
It is obvious that Leo Tolstoy puts an emphasis on the value of philosophical introspection and the use of hard work as good for the mind. He puts value towards an isolated style of living and the voluntary exit of popular politics, idleness towards religion, and the nuances of the social bourgeois. Tolstoy examines, at a distance, those who are driven by the plights of the heart, those who follow duty and rule by the book, and those who gain insight and learn to accept the responsibility of their decisions. His perception of the importance of living with intention, forgiveness, and the realness of life versus death leave you pondering the very questions that Tolstoy seemed to be grappling with himself.
CARO'S RATING: 4.5 of 5 STARS
A heavy read, and one that I consider myself blessed to be able to have experienced. It is no surprise that this is considered one of Rory's favorite books. Tolstoy's prose surrounding the intricacies of human emotion is so raw but put so eloquently that I'm dumbstruck someone is able to capture the small, fleeting thoughts that make a very real impact in daily life. He writes with such ease, that I felt that I had to take breaks to feel the impact of how precisely his words relayed even the smallest of feelings, from doubt to listlessness. It's very clear that Tolstoy himself was an exceedingly well-observed man. I want to give this book a full 5 stars, it is very obvious as to why it receives the esteem that it does, however parts that pertain to Levin's inner-monologues prohibited this for me. I recommend a reading of Anna Karenina to anyone, but especially someone with an inclination towards introspection.
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