Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Prepping for Anna Karenina

Throughout my travels on the intrawebz, I’ve come across lots of posts and comments about reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. These comments and posts usually advise a person to familiarize himself with the period in Russian history in which the novel is set, and to find a family tree to keep track of who’s related to whom. Some even advised readers to use charts to keep the names of the characters straight, because every character has at least five names.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I just started reading Tolstoy’s other novel Anna Karenina, and I looked up “guides” on reading the novel. What surprised me was the utter lack of Preparing to Read Anna Karenina posts or websites on the internet, and the closest “about to read Anna Karenina guide” I found was on Oprah’s website.

So, here’s the thing, guys: If you’ve read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, I need your help. Do I need to study a particular period of Russian history to understand the context of the novel? Do I need to create some sort of chart to keep the names straight? Are there historical figures that I need to be familiar with?

All comments and suggestions are welcome, and please avoid spoilers. Thanks, guys.

11 comments:

Laura said...

I read Anna Karenina earlier this year, and while at first it is a tiny bit difficult to figure out who is who, you sort of get into the flow of it and just figure it out as you go. As for the Russian history thing, I just basically thought 'well, it's before the revolution and we're following the upper classes so they must all be dicks', in a nutshell! So I basically think read the book and it will all become clear, but that's just what I did- I suspect that further study of stuff would probably give you a richer reading experience, but even without all that stuff it's a pretty amazing book :)

mel u said...

When I read War and Peace a couple of years ago-has about 350 characters-I printed out the character list from Wikepedia-they also have a character list for Anna Karenina-just print that-not the plot summery -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Karenina#Main_characters

Beth said...

I didn't do much studying before I read the novel, but kind of researched different references while reading the novel. As for the name situation, I think you'll be able to follow along after the first 100 pages or so without a problem. If it works to keep a chart, by all means, do it! I really enjoyed this one so I'm excited to see that you're tackling it!

Zibilee said...

I haven't read this book, but from what I understand, it's a very different book from War and Peace, which I am stuck in the middle of. War and Peace is very ponderous, which I don't think is the case with Anna Karenina. I think the latter is more of an interpersonal story, and hence, is easier to read, if that helps. Can't wait to hear what you think of it!

Story said...

I agree with Laura. . .after reading several chapters I felt that I was following it fairly well given that I did not do any special preparations. I often refer to the character list though. Oprah has a printable bookmark with characters' names. You can access if from Unputdownables blog. See my start up post to access her Anna Karenina page! I hope you enjoy the reading!

reviewsbylola said...

I really like the idea of prepping yourself before reading a book. I often need that with classics or books based on history. I wish I could help you but I know nothing about Anna K!

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I read Anna over two weeks earlier in the year and didn't prep. There is a bit about agriculture and the nobility but I found that I could follow it all without any help. It's more drama heavy than history heavy.

Trish said...

Great advice here! The only Russian novel I've read recently was Crime and Punishment and I could pretty much glean the cultural and historical references from the context of the story. The characters were a little confusing so I started a list but by the end I didn't even need to refer to it any more. Good luck with AK - I'll be tackling it soon, too.

Christa @ Hooked on Books said...

I wouldn't hurt to know a little about Russian society at the time and how it was organized. But if you don't the story is still very accessible.

As for characters... I remember there being a lot but only a few key characters (much different from W&P where there are a ton of key characters)

I personally like this book way better than War & Peace. Hope you like it!

Kailana said...

I still haven't read this book, either. One day. I wouldn't even considered background info before I started it, though. Oops!

Audra said...

I read this book w/o any prep or research a few summers ago -- I did buy the newest translation (Volokhonsky/Pevear) because I prefer more modern language than the sort of old fashioned stuffiness of the '50s translations I'd come across before. I can't wait to see what you think of it -- I loved it!

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