Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy (1875)

The novel was published in serial installments from 1875 to 1877 in the periodical ‘The Russian Messenger’. Tolstoy clashed with editor Mikhail Katkov over political issues that arose in the final installment therefore, the novel’s first complete appearance was in book form in 1878. Widely regarded as a pinnacle in realist fiction, Anna Karenina recounts St. Petersburg aristocrat Anna Karenina’s life story at the backdrop of the late-19th-century feudal Russian society. Having considered War and Peace not a novel, Tolstoy considered Anna Karenina his first true novel. Fyodor Dostoyevsky declared it “flawless as a work of art.” His opinion was shared by Vladimir Nabokov, who especially admired “the flawless magic of Tolstoy’s style,” and by William Faulkner, who described the novel as “the best ever written.” The novel remains popular, as demonstrated by a 2007 poll of 125 contemporary authors in Time, which declared that Anna Karenina is the “greatest book ever written.”


After reading ‘War and Peace’ on a Palm Pilot over the 2008 winter, I had anticipated also reading this novel. However the public broadcast of the 2012 film by Joe Wright was an alternative and shorter means of absorbing the story.

A lot of the story takes place on in a theatre, with actors changing the scenery between each scene. It’s a device not seen before and at first is a novelty but soon becomes distracting.

The best part of the film is the production design, costumes and score. The music really takes over at times, making the film a visual and audio feast for the senses. However the main problem is the story. This is surprising given the screenplay by Tom Stoppard. There is never a sense of involvement with characters. Their backgrounds and motivations are not clear and the result is that the story comes across as a cheap melodrama.

Having red War and Peace, I know that Tolstoy put more into his books than this. Maybe the story would be better told as a miniseries. There have already been seven TV adaptions, so maybe one of these is better than the film.

In the end this film it was a case of style over substance and after an hour it became boring and I gave up.

Recommendation: Read ‘War and Peace’