January: Translated Fiction Review

**I just want to say that I am no literary critic, but here is my “review” sort-of-speak…so no judging!**

Dear reader,

My goal for this year was to read 12 books from 12 very different genres.  CLICK HERE to see the literary details.

So, my first month genre was a translated fiction and I decided that since I just saw the movie Anna Kerinina, it would only be appropriate to read the novel.  HA.  Let me just tell you that Leo Tolstoy is probably not the best author to jump into mid-month.  I was honestly not trying to skim any of the book either, and that got me to about page 600 before February 1st.  Out of 1200.

**Also, don’t try to read anything when you own a young cat.  Crookshanks found nothing more enjoyable than creeping up and sneakily lying over my book while I was reading it.  Every time.**

Yes, this is Crookshanks hogging both my lap and the computer while I was trying to write this blog post.

Leo Tolstoy is Russian.  And like most Russians, they have long, complicated (but beautiful when correctly pronounced) names that I can never remember.  Oh, and there are several of them.  For instance, one of the main characters is Prince Stepan Arkadyevich, also known as Stiva Oblonsky (aka Stiva Arkadyevich, Stepan Oblonsky, or Stepan Aradyevich Oblonsky–blah).  But you soon figure that out…or in my case, you go back to the beginning of the chapter and try to find where you missed a character.  And just so it doesn’t get too confusing, both of the main male characters in the novel have the same name: Alexei (one is Vronsky and the other is Karenin).  That took me quite a bit of rehashing during the movie.

After I spent the first few days straightening (and judiciously writing) character names and their relationships out, then I got into the actual story.

What I found was that I really connected with some characters and others I was just sick of hearing about, and at every opportunity I was subconsciously judging them and wishing the chapter would end quickly.  An example: Levin, Nikolai Dmitrievich Levin, just got on my nerves.  I couldn’t help it!!  I know he was struggling with some inner resentment, embarrassment and political and socioeconomic problems, but dear God!  And there were just chapters of this.  And again, if I had loads of time and no kitties, I probably could’ve read this and discovered “new hidden meanings” or whatever.  But I didn’t and I no longer like Levin.

Not to mention that I’m 600 pages in the novel, Anna Kerinina, and I feel that the majority has been about everybody but her.  And I actually like her, and relate to her on my feminist side.  But if you’ve ever read the unabridged version of Les Miserables, then you fully understand why there is an abridged version out too.  Now, I’m not saying that I didn’t like the novel, but it’s quite possible that the second half has more Anna in it, aaaannnnddd the movie showed an awful lot of Keira Knightly and her good looking lover who played Vronsky, and I built up my expectations from that.  (One should NEVER watch the movie before the book–this was a very rare instance for me).

And it seemed that every character had an inner demon (or demons in some cases).  This is where I really connected with them.  Their demons were no different than mine, or yours.  There was financial difficulty, adultery (I’m going to go ahead and say that I did not relate to this one…), deception, jealousy, women being women…and men being men for that matter…hurting for those whose conditions were worse off, and self-deprecation, not to mention many, many others.  And even though Levin really got on my nerves, I could see where he was coming from, the battles he was fighting, the pride and vanity.

So before I divulge important details, I’ll just say that, with some time, this really is an excellent read and an important literary classic that delves into various levels of relationships and political, economic, and social turmoil in Russia during the mid-1800’s.  And I will finish the novel, but now is the time for Month Two: Historical Mystery.  Stay tuned!

Randi

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