I’m re-reading Anna Karenina for my new creative-reading class. I love these sessions, when we take a section of novel or a short story and investigate it. I don’t wear a deerstalker, but I do study the text as closely as if I had taken out a magnifying glass.
It’s so much easier to be a detective between the pages of a novel than in real life. For one thing, everything is neatly gathered together. I can look beyond the text to find out background information, but I don’t have to. And surely, I shouldn’t expect to on a general read. After all, I don’t know about you, but I read fiction to be entertained, in the first place, and that usually means I engage in the story-world.
My copy of Anna Karenina weighed in at 817 pages of quite small text. It’s a much bigger story than I remembered, but just as with some other apparantly dauntingly hefty classics, I was driven to read on: to find out what, how, why, when and where?
This novel is over one hundred and thirty years old. So some things are mentioned that I needed to check the notes in the back for, but not so many that it broke the narrative spell. Tolstoy’s characters and setting, combined with my own store of experiences and general knowledge, brought nineteenth century Russia to life.
As you have no doubt realised, I think Anna Karenina still works. Someone else may not. Isn’t that the most basic of test of fiction, not what the critics have to say about how or why it was written, or even who it is by, but whether you liked it, and why?