I don’t know what Tolstoy was getting at. Or, I should say I don’t understand the point he seems to be reinforcing. He meticulously describes the inner live of a woman who falls in love, and leaves her loveless marriage. He also describes an ethical atheist as he embarks on his family life. It seems like Tolstoy is genuinely sympathetic to both of these characters.
****Giant Spoiler Alert*****
Then he proceeds to have her throw herself into an oncoming train, and has the atheist character get religion. If he wanted to pontificate about morality, I think he could have spent far less time telling us about the inner life of Anna Karinina, the unfaithful wife, and Levin, the atheist. I feel vaguely annoyed every time an author is so simplistic in doling out morality. Anna Karinina had to die because she’s an adulterer. Levin had to find God because, well god.
The only thing that doesn’t really fit here is Anna’s husband. He doesn’t come to a particularly great end. He seems really distraught about loosing his wife and falls into chicanery and fanaticism. His career stalls after Anna’s affair becomes public; and he is judged harshly for not calling out Vronsky, Anna’s lover, for a duel.
I liked reading about life in 19th century Russia. I was interested to read that Anna was punished for adultery, and yet she was only honest about what most others were doing in private. It was also interesting that her isolation from society probably exacerbated her paranoia over Vronsky falling out of love with her.
Did I like this book? Not really. Would I read it again? No. Should you read it? I don’t know. It’s awfully long to conclude in such a predicable way. How interested are you in 19th century Russia? Not so much? Don’t pick up this book.