Anna Karenina Fridays: Part I Chapters I-XX

As I mentioned in my Anna Karenina starting post, every Friday between now and the end of the year, I will be posting about Tolstoy’s work as part of a read-along hosted by Wallace at Unputdownables.  This week, I completed the first twenty chapters of Part I.  For the read-along, Wallace is using the questions from when Anna Karenina was featured on Oprah’s Book Club.  I will from time-to-time answer some of the questions, or just discuss my general overall impressions of the week’s reading.

Today’s discussion questions are:

  1. Talk about your initial perceptions of Leo Tolstoy as a writer and his sweeping novel Anna Karenina.  What frightens or excites you about reading it?

    Answer:  Leo Tolstoy strikes me as the complete opposite of Fyodor Dostoevsky.  Dostoevsky seemed to write about the darker side of human psyche and probed the darker portions of Russian culture/society.  You can clearly see that with both Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov.  Both are great novels and I highly recommend them.  I’ve written about The Brothers Karamazov in this post.  Leo Tolstoy’s writings don’t seem as dark, especially given my reading of War and Peace and my initial reading of Anna Karenina.

    The first time I read Anna Karenina, I found it difficult to read, it was daunting.  I can’t even remember for sure with complete confidence that I finished reading it, it was more than 7 years ago after all.  After completing War and Peace, there really isn’t anything overly frightening about reading Anna Karenina, I’m actually quite excited about tackling it once again.  Especially now that I have many more classics under my belt, including The Brothers Karamazov.

  2. Talk about the first sentence in the novel.  “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  Do you agree with its assertion?

    Answer:  I think this first sentence sets the tone for the entire book.  While reading the first twenty chapters, you can tell there’s a pessimistic outlook that envelopes everything and everyone.  I definitely feel this sentence is going to be something that I’ll remember and apply to each and everything in the book going forward.  I also agree with this assertion.  I’ve seen both happy and unhappy families.  And their demeanor is similar.

For the remainder of this post, I’m going to discuss my initial impressions of the work .  After having read War and Peace, I can definitely see a similar writing style.  Since each book was written during the same social and cultural period of czarist Russia, I can see the cultural similarities.  Arranged marriages for either higher social status and/or improved political prospects.

And as is the case in czarist Russia, as it was on other monarchies in Europe, there were multiple mistresses, and cheating on wives.  While infidelity will be an over-arching plot for Anna Karenina, I don’t think that’s solely what Tolstoy is going to be looking at in this book.  There will be criticisms of Russian culture and politics of the times, and that’s what will be most fascinating about this book.  That’s what I found most fascinating about War and Peace, the peace sections of the book were the most interesting, because from a historical perspective, you learn a lot more about society at the time, than from the plot.

Overall, the first twenty chapters of the book have been fascinating, and I’m looking forward to continuing my reading of Anna Karenina.



About Jeremy

Husband, book lover, Civil War Buff. If I could read for a living I would, but unfortunately, it doesn't pay the bills!

One Response to “Anna Karenina Fridays: Part I Chapters I-XX”

  1. I like what you said about infidelity’s role in the book. It does seem as if it is mostly a vehicle for discussing Russia’s change into the modern era rather than the point of the book. I like the firsthand look at the crumbling aristocracy.

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