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Fashion Book: Anna Karenina

2014 April 3
by Jill

So it took me a month, but I finished reading Anna Karenina. I started it years ago but put it down after about a hundred pages because I was about to start grad school and I knew my reading time would be limited, so I wanted to read lighter and shorter books. I’d always planned on picking it up again and I finally did last month. I’m really glad I did. This is one of those novels you hear everyone talking about, one of those books you might feel like you don’t have to read because there’s a movie and because we all know how it ends. But if you haven’t read it, and you have even the slightest interest, I would highly recommend it.

It’s well worth your time, and here’s why: even though Tolstoy wrote this mammoth novel more than a hundred years ago, he managed to portray a truth about human relationships, faith, politics, and society that rings true today. Yes, everyone in the book has four different names (crazy Russians) and there are many (many) descriptions of farming methods and the state of the peasantry, but that doesn’t diminish the brilliance of the book.

Of course, the central conflict in the book comes from Anna Karenina’s betrayal of her husband for the dashing playboy, Count Vronsky, who’d previous been courting the young Kitty–the younger sister of Anna’s brother’s wife (it’s like a soap opera!). Flying in the face of convention, Anna leaves her husband and son behind to travel with Vronsky, living in unmarried sin. She gives up her place in society, as well as many of her friends, in order to be with the man she loves. However, their love soon sours, as is wont to do, and Anna is plagued by doubt and jealousy, ultimately destroying the only good thing left in her life.

As Anna is arguably the heroine of the book, the audience is supposed to sympathize with her. She’s drawn as a lively and kind woman doomed by the restrictions of her society. Maybe due to my own recent circumstances, I just didn’t like her. I didn’t feel much sympathy for her when she reaches her inevitable end. I didn’t believe she was a good woman. I don’t know if I’m alone in this–what does everyone else think? Did you like Anna?

My favorite people in the book were Kitty and Levin. Levin, a kind of coarse man who prefers to live in the country, had been spurned by Kitty in favor of Vronsky, but when Vronsky runs away with Anna, Kitty and Levin are brought back together again. It’s in their quiet and gradual love that the book resonated most with me. In Levin’s musings about the nature of life and work and faith, in Kitty’s struggles to recover from heartbreak and her simple happiness at finding love with Levin, accepting him for who he is, though they are very different people–that’s where I thought Tolstoy’s understanding of human nature really came through.

But the book’s title is Anna Karenina after all, so I created an outfit for Anna. It’s her style that is most described in the book–how she is so striking that she is able to wear simple black dresses and still be the most lovely woman in the room, how Kitty hopes she will wear lilac to a ball but understands when she shows up in black that it is what suits her best.

Here’s a more modern look for Anna:

 

Fashion Book--Anna Karenina
 
Have you read Anna Karenina? What did you think?
4 Responses Post a comment
  1. April 3, 2014

    I totally hated Anna and was all too happy when she got hit by the train. (But I’m also a vindictive reader.) Kitty and Levin were great, but the whole book was such a slog for me. At least now I can appreciate a good Anna Karenina outfit! 😉

  2. April 3, 2014

    Levin was hands down my favorite part of the book – and really what kept me reading the whole thing!

  3. Felisa permalink
    April 4, 2014

    I also preferred the Levin story-line. Anna for me was less compelling, probably because I simply didn’t see Vronsky’s appeal.
    You summed up Tolstoy’s brilliance well. And even more than Anna Karenina (IMHO), War and Peace knocked my socks off with its startlingly astute and compassionate depiction of people and relationships. The kind of writing where you constantly say “yes, exactly!” He’s truly, truly amazing.

  4. Amy permalink
    April 4, 2014

    I haven’t read this book, but it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for years. I have, however, seen the movie. Even in the face of Keira Knightley’s gorgeousness and the passion of her affair with Vronsky, I was more drawn to the Levin-Kitty storyline. Maybe because it felt more realistic? One of these days I will read the book, spurred on by reviews like these.
    (On a related note, I recently watched About Time, which stars the actor who plays Levin in the movie. It is a delight, if you haven’t seen it.)

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