Thursday, February 17, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Part II)

I made a pact with a family member to read two chapters of Anna Karenina every day (5 days/week) to finish it in approximately 5 months. Currently 6 weeks in we are ahead of schedule - 68 chapters read so far. The book has a total of 8 parts and I'm going to review each part as I go so I don't forget what I've read by the end. Then I'll put the separate reviews together for my Amazon review.

Last week I reviewed Part I with a breakdown of the characters we met.  

In Part II, we meet the following additional characters:

Princess Elizaveta ("Betsy") – Anna's friend and Vronsky's cousin, seems Anna's only trusted confidante during her affair with Vronsky.

Countess Lidia Ivanovna – Friend of Anna and her husband, Karenin, who warns Karenin about Anna's relationship with Vronsky.  

Varenka – A young, beautiful and kind-hearted orphaned girl, adopted by an "invalid" woman.  She and Kitty become friends at the end of this section.


I mentioned earlier we are slightly ahead of schedule.  This is because the book has begun to move along faster.  There were some chapters in this Part where I didn't want to stop reading, I just had to find out what was going to happen next.

In the beginning of this section, Kitty's health is poor and a doctor advises her to go abroad to recover.  Stiva (Anna's brother) comes to stay with Levin and sells a plot of his land, which Levin is unhappy about because he believes the land was worth much more.

Anna begins to spend more time with Betsy (Vronsky's cousin).  Anna and Vronsky begin having an affair.  Karenin becomes suspicious of this relationship and warns Anna about public appearances, although he does not allow himself to believe that Anna is doing anything disloyal.

Vronsky comes to visit Anna just before his horse race and she tells him that she is pregnant.  He asks her to leave her husband and she tells him that she cannot.  Her husband, who has been spending the summer away, returns to town in time to go to the race.  During the race, Vronsky makes a move that results in the horse breaking her back.   Anna is visibly upset when the accident happens.  Karenin strongly urges her to leave with him, for fear that her behavior was becoming embarrassing.  The argument on the way home leads to her confessing the affair to her husband.

Finally, we go back to Kitty who is abroad with her mother and befriends a young girl name Varenka.  Her new friendship with Varenka sparks in her a desire to help people.  She seems to begin feeling better, her father comes and they return to Moscow.

I'm definitely remaining interested in the book at this point.  It's becoming easier to read now that we know most of the main characters.  I don't like when Tolstoy shifts between story lines (i.e. from Levin in the country to Anna in Petersburg to Kitty wherever she is abroad).  It takes a little while to shift gears, but as we get further in to each individual story line, that seems to get easier.  

I'm currently 12 chapters ahead of schedule and now moving on to Part III.