I’ve been saving this book for the last few weeks. Maybe a little because I didn’t want to come off as one of those academic people who casually name drop classic literature. “Well, when I read ‘The Mill on the Floss’ it was the tension of Maggie’s desires and her circumstances…” So, I’m not going to do that.
My reading of “Anna Karenina” couldn’t have been less academic. It was my sophomore year of high school. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know that I was library aid when I could. Sophomore year was no different, except that I was library aid in the BEST library.
Stay with me while I take a short detour through Memory Lane. My high school was Balboa High School, in Panama (yes, the country), and it was in a great old Canal Zone building. The library was massive with beautiful oak shelves, tables, balconies and massive windows. And there was a huge selection of books. I got to spend a whole class in there, with only the librarian, everyday. Some days I shelved books. Some days I worked on the bulletin board. Then there were the days when I got to roam the library discovering books. That brought me to “Anna Karenina.”
I read this masterpiece with no teacher’s guidance and very little understanding of imperial Russia. I still can’t argue themes or literary technique used in the book. This book is also not for everyone. I’ve found that people either love it or hate it.What I can say about this book is that it opened the world of classic literature to me. Tolstoy’s Anna was the most romantic figure I’d ever encountered—and tragic. I so wanted her story to end happily and most of the books I’d read to this point always ended happily. In Anna I found unhappiness and the reality of the world. Those are powerful things to find in your books for the first time.
While Anna and Vronsky intrigued me, I was also fascinated with Levin’s life. It was so simple in comparison and more satisfying. I cannot tell you that it had the effect of helping me avoid trouble or making mistakes a la Anna. It did set me on my eventual path to a degree in English and discovery of other great literature.
I’m so glad I wandered to that corner of my high school library, sat on the floor in a patch of sunlight and made my way through “Anna Karenina.”