Book Review of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

“Around us fear, descending,
Darkness of fear above;
And in my heart how sweet unending
Ache of love.”
– On The Beach At Fontana, James Joyce

Most likely, we live with our ability to love and with the longing that is love. It seems to me that there is lots of ground to cover where there should be love, at it is, in between the two. In the course of 900 pages, you, the reader, get to know some striking personalities, and some of them, perhaps in their closeness and yearning in spiritual exile and atonement, might even be you.

Anna Karenina is not a story about love fated to desertion. It’s an imaginative, mysterious, and a thorough account of the conflict between intelligence and sentiment. How both thrive within and without each other’s admiration and later, animosity. Although sentiment has a deeper, more cultural home in society. Intelligence draws one’s psyche toward the philosophy, the understanding, dichotomy, purpose, and extraction of sentiment. In the process, you perceive the fragility of sentiment. The bleakness of it, its uncertainty, its tendency to break as quickly as an object of glass.

The book is no stranger to this clash of such striking faculties of thought, of being. The raging metaphors and, what seemingly continues for an eternity, the insecurity and transparency of the characters. All this instills an empathetic but an unemotional nerve in me. The story is far removed from society’s shallow and conservative eye. But this very fact lays heavy on the portrayal of Anna. Her unhappiness and her interpretation of it. The book is generously written in that the deafening ignorance, the greed, the hedonistic affectation of the story is tough to open up to. But as you do, the loss of self outweighs the tragedy.

Anna Karenina is a transformative read. Even more so once you realize Konstantin Levin is Leo Tolstoy’s altered psyche, conscience, and philosophy.  His is a story of striking and unforgettable devotion and delight. For me, the unraveling of his character, so passionate, intelligent, and moving, is one of the most gripping things I’ve read.