Anna Karenina, by Lev Tolstoy
I am so happy that I finally read Anna Karenina. I had it on my must-read list for this year, and then I won a free movie tie-in copy from The Blue Bookcase! (Plus a candle and soundtrack CD.) I wasn't sure about reading a tie-in edition, since I was sure they would have picked just any old translation that was free of copyright, and really I would like to read the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation that everybody raves about. And indeed they picked a 1918 translation by the Maudes; a foreword notes that the Maudes were friends with Tolstoy, lived in Russia for a long time, and shared many of his ideas. So that disposed me to like them more. I did enjoy the writing just fine, though I would prefer the names to have been less Anglicized--but at least they didn't go as far as one translation I've heard of that calls Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky--informally Stiva-- "Steve."
I loved this book. It's just a gorgeous novel, and I don't quite know what else to say about it. I had a wonderful time with it, and I even enjoyed the farming bits that everyone complains about--I didn't care much for the politics but that was near the end. I loved the development of Kitty and Levin's relationship, and watched Anna and Vronsky's tragedy play out with sadness. There are so many characters, and they are all well-developed people--I guess that's the advantage of giant novels, lots of room to develop everything fully.
I've had such a lovely time with Russian literature in the past year. I cannot even tell you how great the Classics Club is for getting me to finally actually read these things, and I'm looking forward to more. (I have Dead Souls and even the P/V War & Peace now!)
If you are intimidated by the idea of reading Anna Karenina, a Great Work of Literature that is 900 pages long and Russian to boot--well, it's not nearly as difficult as I had imagined that it would be. I thoroughly enjoyed it, did not find it difficult at all, and had little trouble sticking with it for the whole length (and I have a pretty short attention span). Gather up your courage and give it a try.