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Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Good Housekeeping's view...

January 2010 Good Housekeeping selection.

On My Bookshelf by Wendy Holden...

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy is the best in its class – I am a novelist, but for my money the writers of the19th century set the bar for the whole genre. The reason I love it isn’t so much the tragic Anna with ghastly Vronsky, but because of Princess Kitty and Levin. He’s cracked and she’s a bit cosy, but their love affair is just so transportingly romantic. The description of when they meet at the frozen pond, where she is skating and he can’t even look at her because he feels it would be like looking at the sun, gets me every time. It’s because of these two lovers that I’ve never understood the fuss about Jane Austen’s Elizabeth and Mr Darcy.

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Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

‘Everything is finished. I have nothing but you now. Remember that’

Anna Karenina seems to have everything – beauty, wealth, popularity and an adored son. But she feels that her life is empty until the moment she encounters the impetuous officer Count Vronsky. Their subsequent affair scandalizes society and family alike and soon brings jealously and bitterness in its wake. Contrasting with this tale of love and self-destruction is the vividly observed story of Levin, a man striving to find contentment and a meaning to his life – and also a self-portrait of Tolstoy himself.

This new translation has been acclaimed as the definitive version of Tolstoy’s masterpiece. It also contains an introduction by Richard Pevear and a preface by John Bayley.

About the Author

Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 at Yasnaya Polyana, province of Tula, the fourth son of Count Nikolay Tolstoy. Between 1856 and 1861 Tolstoy wrote and traveled abroad extensively. He returned with a sense of revulsion for what he considered to be European materialism. In 1859 he started several schools for peasant children at Yasnaya and in 1862 he founded a magazine in which he contended that it was the peasants who should teach the intellectuals, rather than the other way round. Tolstoy's increasingly radical political stance at the end of his life alienated his wife. He frequently dispensed huge sums of money to beggars and drew up a will relinquishing his copyrights. Such behavior led to frequent disputes with his Sofia. Finding it impossible to continue living a comfortable life with his family whilst preaching communism, he left Yasnaya in 1910, with one of his daughters and his doctor, for an unknown destination. He died on the journey and was buried in a simple peasant's grave.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th January 2003


Leo Tolstoy

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Penguin Classics an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd


864 pages


Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
Fiction in translation



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