Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Conquering Anna.

Like most bookworms, I have an extensive list of books to read in my lifetime. I'm guessing that in addition to this we likely each have a few books that are sort of the big kahunas. You know, the ones that are really intimidating, often thick and you've over-seen them being read by people you thought really cool or brainy... well for me one of the biggest was Anna Karenina.

I remember seeing it probably for the first time when I was about 14. I was at a friend's house, in this super cool library type loft that had tons of books, floor pillows, candles, maps.. the whole nine yards. I picked up the book and was mesmerized by the gorgeous cover photo. I had heard of the name before and never realized how huge it was. I told her that I really wanted to read it, and she explained that her older brother would be impressed and probably let me borrow it. Woah, that's a lot for a not-actually-that-literary-reader, not to mention boy-crazy 14 year-old to handle! Needless to say, I put it back on the shelf, quickly brushed it off saying "oh, that's ok. I probably won't have time to read it for a while anyway."

I finally purchased a copy for myself on a walking trip from our (now old) apartment to the nearby bookstore. I bought a used copy and was very excited. Purchasing it was a really big step, I never imagined that I would read it before I turned 40 let alone while within the year I bought it!

I had heard that a movie version was being made that had both Kiera Knightly and Jude Law in it. I was pretty excited about it and took it as a challenge to start reading it in time for the movie. Where we live, we get independent/foreign/non box office-y movies for a very limited period of time and only two at a time. I began the book despite the fact that I was about to finish my senior year as an undergraduate.

Once I picked up the novel, I could barely set it down. I made a goal to read just 2 chapters per day, and when I would get behind I would catch up as much as possible within a day where I wasn't so busy. This strategy kept me interested and also from forgetting what was going on in the plot. As I read, I came to find that this whale-of-a-book was actually quite accessible and much more quickly paced than I had expected.

During my reading, I found myself reflecting on some of the over-arching topics quite a bit. For one, I just felt extremely grateful that my husband and my "Mister" (?), lover, are one-and-the-same. I just feel so terribly for anyone involved in an affair. After that I found myself (surprisingly!) sympathetic for Anna's character. How awful to live in a society where you have very little to no control over your relationships. She had no options when it came her relationships. How awful not to have any options especially not to divorce. In this case I felt that and her husband (in my interpretation) was pretty absent and not meeting her needs. To be fair, it was very possibly completely unknown to him. But his affection for her wasn't really noticeable in the book.

Beyond those those thoughts, I found myself wanting to learn more about the history and culture of that time and period in Russia. I think that it would be extremely interesting, so if any of you history buffs out there have a recommendation.. send it my way! :)

Once I got into the book, it really didn't take too long to finish.. considering how long it is. (817 pgs!) The night that I finished it we went to see the evening showing of the movie. I had not really done any research and didn't realize how theatrical it would be... but I was glad to have seen it. I thought that it was really well done. I love a good artistically shot film! The costumes and sets were so intricate and gorgeous!

However, I had 3 thoughts on what I expected to be different in the film:

1) the depth of Anna's struggle was MUCH more drawn out in the book, even if you rationalize the varying lengths. I was hoping to get a bit more of a look into what drove her to her decision. It almost came across like a girlish whim. Which gives the whole plot and character a very different feel. 

2) Vronsky's mustache (period accurate or not) was not attractive at all. It caused a whole lot of grimacing on my part, especially during one of the love scenes.

3) This kind of goes with 1, but in the end Anna's actions seemed a little overly dramatic considering the quickness of the movie and the lack of explanation of her marital relationship.

KC on the other hand didn't find it that way as a non-reader-viewer. So it could be just me!

Have you read Anna Karenina? What did you think of the book or movie versions? What is one of the "big kahunas" on your reading list?

Currently reading: Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
(a gorgeous 1935 copy that was a $2 steal at a local bookstore!) 
Read my thoughts after reading it, here.

All for now,


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