To my mind, in my youth, snobbishly, I graded humans into two categories. Those that had read War And Peace and those who had not. And to that extent, I believed, if you had read War And Peace, you ought to have read Anna Karenina as a flow on.
The reason I love Anna Karenina is because, as a priest once explained to me, pleasure and pain and two sides of the same coin. And so it was in my youth, and because I pursued difficult relationships, that love must also bring fear, dread and suffering. Anna Karenina to me is a didactic Christian based story of what right and wrong love is. Before I go any further, I would like to add I haven't read anything of what scholars say it is, I am going off the cuff with my own opinion, so, and because we have so many customers smarter than I am, if I am wrong, please don't correct me, just let me have my opinion.
And so we witness the pain Levin suffers when first rejected by Kitty, then we witness the pleasure that Kitty derives when she perceives Vronsky is her man, then the utter dread when she realises that lofty Anna has stolen the heart of her man, then the dread she feels that she slighted Levin, then the utter joy when they come together and the utter despair when Anna takes her own life.
But it is not the winter balls, the movement between city and country, the talks between Stiva and Levin on the subject of morality and 'fallen women' that excite me, but those small details of pyschology that penetrate your mind and ring true as if you were there, unable to disconnect yourself from the feelings of the characters, with them as life rolls forward for them, feeling their shame, feeling their vitality, loving as they love.
A journalist friend of mine sat on my Chesterfield today and said it was his favourite work of Tolstoy. I didn't necessarily agree. For myself, Anna Karenina is the most human of his works but to my mind, but it dwells mostly on the subject of love and marriage. I am more inclined therefore to revert back to War And Peace, for it covers a great deal more about life, it covers also the chaos and inherent instability and flux of all that is around us as structures and loves fall, some die, some rejuvenated.
If you are tired of Netflix, if you want something to do whilst you are cooking or drawing or just mincing about your living room, consider Audible's version of Anna Karenina read by Maggie Gyllenhaal - she is brilliant and not so much affected as those ridiculous English type authors that read far too pompously for my liking. She reads with grace and with little affectation. I love it, I cannot recommend it more highly - as I no longer have the University time to sit down and read the whole thing again.