Anna Karenina

by Leo Tolstoy

Part 1 (pages 1-115)

This book is a world away from anything I have read before. Set in Russia in the late half of the 19th century, it is centred around the lives of Russian aristocrats. Tolstoy discusses philosophy, religion and politics in this book, but at its heart, Anna Karenina is a story of romance and sorrow.

Anna Karenina has a complicated storyline, with people proposing, going abroad, dying, having children and falling in love with their siblings’ friends at various points towards the start of the story. Before the story even starts, you are presented with a list of un-translatable Russian words and 96 characters. Once you do start reading, the book jumps straight in to the drama, but you are only introduced to Anna Karenina (Steven Oblonsky’s sister) until nearly halfway through part one of the book.

Part one ends on a cliff-hanger, with Anna and Vronsky having a secret conversation on a train in the middle of a snowstorm, and Anna left wondering whether she will give up her husband, eight-year-old son, and place in the “Society” for love. If she chooses love, she can be happy, but at the cost of her niece Kitty’s dignity – Kitty loves the same man as Anna. If she chooses her husband and family, they can be happy, but at the cost of her own joy, and the joy of her lover.

From what I have read so far, I would recommend Anna Karenina for 14+ as there are tricky words and subject matter which could be distressing for sensitive readers (a man gets killed by a tram in front of a crowd). This is a rich and detailed story which really makes you think about what love is.