I can't believe I'm done. This was one of those books that I was afraid would de-rail the whole project because it would be too boring or difficult and I'd get discouraged and seek shelter with Agatha Christie. But I was, mercifully, wrong. I tore through this book. I thought about it all the time, talked about it to relatives and friends who have never read and never intend to read it. During a period of very focused reading (like, several hours a day), I felt like all the characters were walking around with me, invisibly, a few get behind.
I think I get why people consider Tolstoy a genius. I'm not really into literary analysis, so I didn't see a lot of, like, symbolism and stuff like that. Granted, I didn't look for it. But it didn't seem like the sort of book where symbolism and all that are vitally important to your understanding. I read for pleasure and sometimes personal development, but I can't make myself read things that are boring, poorly written, or so obtuse that you have to have an English degree just to comprehend it. Anna Karenina felt like an extremely complex Jane Austen novel, a really magnificent piece of psychological invention. And, like a Jane Austen novel, it wasn't hard to understand or follow at all. The names were just longer. The only place I got even a bit muddled was during a politics session - but I have a suspicion that Tolstoy meant it to feel confusing because Levin couldn't make head or tail of it either.
It, more than almost any other book I have ever read, felt true. The characters felt real, were just as confusing and interesting as real people. Seeing into their minds was thrilling and odd. Watching how things raveled and unraveled, watching people spiral into self-destruction or scrape their way into the light was fascinating. And I've honestly never felt that way before.
I'm now EXTREMELY curious to see the recent movie adaptation Joe Wright made. Besides the main casting - Anna, Karenin, Vronsky and Oblonsky - I have no idea who plays what. I know Olivia Williams is in there (I'm a big fan of hers) and I'm curious to see who she plays. After reading it, I'm more and more convinced that Keira Knightley might have been extremely well cast. We'll find out about that, I suppose.
I can completely see why Joe Wright chose to go the very stylized route with this. I think it'd be too enormously overwhelming to do anything else, and you'd miss the opportunity to play with a lot of elements in a more overt way.
I miss carrying this book around my house. Not because it was fun to show off my obviously fabulous taste in literature - I just miss holding it. It was one of those books that just feels good to hold. Solid, you know?
CONCLUSION: Well, yeah.