30 in 3 Book Challenge Update: Anna Karenina

Update on the book challenge!

I finished Anna Karenina! My 771-page book has been mastered! Took a few months due to fluctuating interest, but закончено. I’ll be honest: When it comes to Anna’s portion of the story, I should have stuck to the Kiera Knightley movie. But that would be terrible. Though I have never seen the movie, I don’t think the movie could encapsulate the other literary aspects Tolstoy so carefully placed in his mega novel. AK is beyond a mushy story about an affair between a beautiful aristocrat and a Russian count. There’s gender roles, philosophy, questions of religion and mental states.

The romance between Anna and Vronsky is exciting at first, but as you keep reading (and reading…and reading…and reading…), you start to think if Anna’s choice to escape with Vronsky to the realm of love and passion was a good idea. You question her credibility and her entitlement. Then, you think “Jesus! I’m just like the Russians in the book!” when you realize you are scrutinizing the woman and not the man. In the beginning of the book, Oblonsky’s, Anna’s brother, affair comes out. No one really does anything though. They don’t exile him. They don’t genuinely scrutinize him because he is the man, the master of the home, the breadwinner. They pity Dolly, Oblonsky’s wife, but it’s only surface deep. And this was set in the mid-1800s! When I think of today’s world with female empowerment and equal rights for all, it’s sort of the same yet sort of different. Women can easily be breadwinners and masters of the home. The shame though when a woman partakes in “inappropriate matters”, like an affair, well from what I have seen and even judged, is gray area. You hear a woman cheats on her husband or partner and others instantly go “what a slut!”. In this time and age though, you also scrutinize the man. I mean, it takes two to tango. Way to go Tolstoy, you got me thinking of gender roles.

My favorite storyline from AK is Levin’s, the co-protagonist. He’s kinda the odd ball out in Society because of he’s not a rebel like Nikolai, his brother, or a bookworm like Sergei, his brother who’s the shining light of Society’s intellectual clique. He’s nowhere near a socialite and hundreds of miles away from bureaucrat city. He doesn’t fit in any category of traditional high society, hence the appeal. He also poses many questions when it comes to Russia’s future. During this time in Russian history, Russia hasn’t full gone Western. Throughout the book, many folks in Society switch from Russian to French to English. Levin refuses to see his homeland go Western, but knows his homeland needs to use Western technology to stay relevant. There is also Levin and Kitty’s love story that is adorable: lost love followed by suffering but triumphed in the end. I am happy that there was at least one happy ending in AK. Literary nerds say Levin is a self-portrait of Tolstoy, citing examples as Kitty and Levin’s wedding and Levin’s acceptance of faith. I can’t necessarily agree nor disagree since I have don’t have much knowledge on Tolstoy, but I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been known to do that from time to time in my own stories.

Spoiler alert: The mental stability was great towards the end of the book. Anna and Levin’s reactions to their situation greatly juxtapose each other. Anna’s choice to be fully involved with Vronsky sends her down a spiral of living nightmares, delusions and mental anguish, leading to her downfall, both metaphorically and literally. Levin, on the other hand, experiences great inner anxiety about his position in life after his baby is born. He even contemplates suicide more than a few times. But, unlike Anna, Levin finds the moment when everything makes sense and everything will be alright. He accepts his position and his faith and lives happily ever after.

I did love the book, again, mostly for Levin’s storyline. Anna’s storyline did bring a little relief from the intense economic, philosophical and self-reflection aspects Levin brought about. If I read this four years ago, I would have been all over Anna’s romantic story. Now, it’s like “you’re a rich girl with first world problems. You’ll survive (or not….cough cough wink wink)”. I would recommend everyone to read it. I would also recommend you take a longgggggg break from the Russian writers afterwards because it does mentally drain you.

Next stop, the French!


June 19, 2017

Books are for those who have cabin fever but can’t physically escape.

-Someone, somewhere (aka me)


Last 100 pages of Anna Karenina? Challenge accepted.

Note to self: stay away from the Russian writers for a long time. Hm, I wonder where that copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls is in my home library. I feel like going on an adventure.

April 26, 2017

If you want to be happy, be.

-Leo Tolstoy


Because it’s that simple.

30 in 3 Book Challenge

After graduating from St. Ed’s I told myself I’d continue reading. No matter how chaotic life will get, I will always make time to read a book. J’ai refusé de vivre sans les grandes histoires de Tolstoï, Hemingway et d’autres!

I created a list. The challenge to myself would be to read 30 books in three years. 10 books a year! That’s no sweat. It’s April 2017. I’m on book six. Yeah…life got more chaotic than I imagined. C’est la vie. Granted, I’m currently reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and that 700+ page baby is basically three books in one.

I know. I know. You’re just dying to know what the list is. Enough chit-chat, here’s the list, in no particular order:

1. Anna Karenina – Tolstoy (currently working on)

2. The Catcher in the Rye –  Salinger (damn phonies!) (read)

3. The Things They Carried – O’Brien (read. Highly recommend if you are into the Vietnam war era)

4. Night and Day – Woolf (who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf? Oh Edward Albee, RIP) (began)

5. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Hemingway (because you know, this is Zelly & Ol’ HEM’s. That and this book has been sitting on the shelf for a couple years. Still waiting on that adventurous spirit to kick I’m and actually pick up the thing.)

6. 1984 – Orwell (the fact our world is slightly becoming Orwell’s 68 year old nightmare is both fascinating and terrifying.) (read)

7. War & Peace – Tolstoy (gotta love them Russkies!)

8. Portrait of a Lady – James

9. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Smith

10. Le voleur d’ombres – Lévy (because you know, can’t waste the French skills)

11. The Princess of Cleves – de la Fayette (this one has been sitting on the shelf longer than Hemingway!)

12. The Beautiful and the Damned – Fitzgerald

13. Save Me the Waltz – Z. Fitzgerald (you can’t have one without the other!) (read)

14. Atlas Shrugged – Rand

15. The Last Tycoon – Fitz

16. The Crucible – Miller (As Radiohead would say, “Burn the witch!”)

17. Le Petite Prince – Saint-Exupéry (the original French version. English translations are never fun when you know the original language.) (read)

18. How the Other Half Lives – Riis

19. Invisible Man – Ellison (Funny story: English teacher in high school had the option to choose this and James Joyce’s “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man”. She chose the latter. To this day, she regrets not choosing the former.)

20. La Fortune d’Alexandrie – Messadie

21.On the Road – Kerouac

22. The Count of Monte Cristo – Dumas

23. Les Miserables – Hugo

24. Brave New World – Huxley

25. A Tale of Two Cities – Dickens (I can finally learn everything that happens after “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”)

26. The Glass Menagerie – Williams

27. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Williams

28. Momo – Ende

29. Age of Innoncence – Wharton

30. The Moviegoer – Walker (a mid-20th century New Orleans man constantly questioning the purpose of life and comparing life to movies? Sure why not?) (read)

The great thing about this is you can customize your own plan. Try a book a month! Or join in on the 30 in 3 Book Challenge. Get your friends to join! Create a book club. Don’t have all the books? Get it on your kindle. Old fashioned like me? Save the trees and buy used books at Half Price Books. Don’t have this amazing place of heaven in your town? No worries! Check them out at http://www.hpb.com.

Point is, there’s no excuse. Keep reading. Escape the world of politics and news and enjoy the world of dystopia or 1800s Russia or the Roaring 20s. Books are a great way to establish relationships and connections. Not only that, but they open our minds and provide various perspectives on events of the past, present and future. Save the books. Share the stories. Remember the artistry that is literature.

February 12, 2015

“Remember that there is only one important time and its Now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the persone with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future. The most important pursuit is making that person, the one standing by your side, HAPPY, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”

– Leo Tolstoy

February 9, 2015

“Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.” – Leo Tolstoy