But now she seemed to him like a wilted flower, the beauty that had moved him to take her was gone.
Anna Karenina has been regarded as the greatest novel by the greatest novelist of all time, filled with wonderfully thought-out characters. As the story opens Russia had ended serfdom (which was agricultural slavery) just a few years before — in fact just a year before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The story centers around a group of people in the very highest Russian society, where idle young men killed time with drinking, sports, and adultery; where the energies of more ambitious men were consumed in pointless bureaucratic intrigues; and where women went on endless rounds of parties requiring endless changes of clothes. Tolstoy is brilliant in his portrayal of flawed human beings trapped in a world of rigidity and fear, ultimately based on slavery. And yet, for me, there is something missing as he seeks to portray the inner thoughts of people trying to escape the prison of high society. None of it seems remotely convincing. So there is another way to read this work. Tolstoy himself was born into the aristocracy and grew up on a farm with 300 serfs. There he fathered at least one illegitimate child. Without intending it, Tolstoy reveals so much of the arrogance of someone surrounded by slaves and brought up to believe that he alone had all the answers. It is the tragedy of Russia.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: Anna Karenina