February 24, 2013

Classics Catch-Up Challenge: My Reviews of Anna Karenina and Wuthering Heights (And the January-February Link-Up!)

 Whew, longest blog post title ever! But, it's time for the January-February installment of the Classics Catch-Up Challenge! Read on to find out what I thought of Anna Karenina and Wuthering Heights, and to link-up your reviews of them.

Part One: Anna Karenina

I really thought Anna Karenina might kill me before I finished. But I made it.

As my friend Sherri said, "It's funny because I am enjoying the story and a few of the characters have really captured me, but it's so torturous! How can both be true?!"

Which basically sums up my take on it. The final train scene is justifiably famous; it was absolutely brilliant. Tolstoy captures so effortlessly Anna's increasing disconnect from reality.

But all those chapters where Levin babbles on and on about crops? Meh. I read this review on Goodreads, saying that till Levin marries he's just a cipher, an empty character to show Lenin's views on agriculture, which seems about right.

I doubt I'm capable of saying anything truly original in my review of Anna Karenina, but here are my four main takeaways:

  1. As Tolstoy explains in the opening sentence, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I loved how aptly he portrayed three different marriages: the very unhappy, broken marriage of Anna and Alexei Karenin*, the dysfunctional but surviving marriage of Stepan Arkadyich and Dolly, and the mostly happy, but occasionally jealous marriage of Konstantin Levin and Kitty. It also made me very thankful for my own husband, who is a million times better than any of those three guys! 
  2. Why did Tolstoy title the book Anna Karenina? It could just as easily have been titled Konstantin Levin really. Was her name supposed to make it a better seller? I think it skews us automatically to sympathize a bit more with Anna, since the book is "hers". 
  3. Ugh, Vronsky and Anna's relationship irritated me. Could she not see that she went straight from the arms of one self-centered man to another? And even though I realize that it was a result of societal mores at the time, it still irritated me that Vronsky had basically no consequences as a result of their liaison, while Anna's life was ruined. Although by the end I actually felt a little sorry for Vronsky for having to put up with Anna's craaaaziness.
  4. I'm glad I read it. It really was brilliant; albeit long. I won't go as far as Faulkner and call it the "best novel ever written", but it was good. But will I ever read it again? Doubt it.

Part Two: Wuthering Heights

I bought copies of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre at the Bronte Parsonage when I was 9. My mom let me buy them, since we were there, but forbade me to read them till I was older. So of course I immediately (secretively) read them as soon as we got back home.** (I can't get in trouble 20 years later, right Mom?) 

I've re-read Jane Eyre a few times since, but I disliked Wuthering Heights the first time around, and so have never gone back. Which is partly why I put it on the list this year, because I figured maybe my adult self would appreciate it more than my fourth-grade self.

I vaguely remember it being a doomed love affair, and thinking it was sad, but I've been surprised how little I actually remembered it at all.

I'm not quite done with it, so I don't want to give a full review, but I'll say that although I still wouldn't go so far as to say that I like it, I am appreciating it more than I did as a kid. Never fear though, I'll finish it by the end of the month - I just had to get this post written so you overachieving types could get your reviews linked up!

Part Three: Your Reviews

Now it's your turn! Link up your reviews for Anna Karenina and Wuthering Heights in the linky below. Remember, if you link up reviews for at least 9 of the 13 books this year, you'll be entered in a drawing for an Amazon giftcard.

The linky will be open till next Sunday, so you still have time to finish up your thoughts. Make sure that you link up the permalink to your actual review post (not just your blog's homepage) so people can read your review. And, if you don't have a blog, just write a review on Goodreads or Amazon or something and put that link below!

What did you think of Anna Karenina and Wuthering Heights?

*I just now noticed while typing this up that Anna's husband and lover have the same name. Ha!
** Yes, even my childhood disobedience took a nerdy, bookworm form. I definitely used to get grounded from reading when I was in trouble.

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