and so it ends

This was just going to be a short post to say that I have, on this day, finished reading Anna Karenina (by Leo Tolstoy, not that I really need to state that), but, as it turns out, I’m not very good at writing short posts (surprise, surprise). Still, I’ll try to keep this kind of short, or at least not terribly long. (It’s less than 700 words – does that count?)

No spoilers here – just some general comments, and quotes from other sources.

It took about five and a half months, or somewhere close to that, to finish reading AK, and that is without a doubt the longest I’ve ever spent reading a novel. Not that it was particularly hard to read or difficult to get through, but I’ve been quite busy with other things, and have not had much spare time for reading this year. Not to mention it is a huge book. Before this, I think the longest time I spent reading a singular novel was about three months for Vanity Fair, which I also loved. (I was on uni holidays at the time, though, so it probably would take me about five months to read in present time.)

I have many thoughts on Anna Karenina, and I’m still considering writing posts for each of the main characters/relationships, but those probably won’t start appearing for a while yet. For now, suffice to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it is definitely one of my most favourite novels.

Now and then, while reading AK, I thought of this quote from The Narrow Road to the Deep North (by Richard Flanagan), which I have already posted two years ago when I was reading that, but will repost here:

A good book, he had concluded, leaves you wanting to reread the book. A great book compels you to reread your own soul.

That’s what AK did for me – compelled me to reread my own soul. It made me look at my own experiences, thoughts, emotions, beliefs through a new perspective. It often left me pondering and questioning. And through it all, I felt as if there was some incredible understanding between this book and me.

And there’s something else I’ve seen, somewhere on the internet (probably Twitter or some other random social media site), where someone wrote about what it’s like to really connect with a novel or a story. They said that “best friends” don’t necessarily have to be living people – sometimes a novel or an author can feel like a friend. Sometimes a work of art, or a piece of music touches the heart or affects the soul the same way a friendship might, and they can fulfil this role too.

It’s like this quote from Chuck Klosterman (also included in a previous post, but reposting here for convenience)

Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that aren’t you.

It gives an incredible feeling of awe. I sincerely hope everyone has experienced or will experience this at some point in their lives (maybe even several times).

And maybe my warm feeling toward Anna Karenina is helped along by the fact that I pretty much carried it with me everywhere for almost half a year, but I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of a book in this way until now. I mentioned in a previous post that this book “has not only kept me company but comforted me and taught me various things over the last few months” – and isn’t that what a good friend does?

I’ve owned my copy of Anna Karenina for about ten years, and although I probably still would’ve enjoyed it back then (and could even be re-reading it by now!), I don’t think it would’ve had the same sort of impact on me then as it has now. I reckon this was the right time of my life to read this.

17 thoughts on “and so it ends

    • I’m planning to read Ulysses next year (along with various smaller reads). Might leave War & Peace for the year after… Also happy to accept recommendations 😉

  1. I love that Flanagan quote, and it’s so true! Especially when it comes to Anna Karenina. And War and Peace. I’m looking forward to your next posts about Anna Karenina.

  2. Oh my goodness, I couldn’t do it. I really couldn’t keep my mind on it. I tried multiple times. Through every one of my husband’s aways, I picked it back up. Lots of Russian lit, tons of huge books, Anna Karenina? Nope. I got about 200 pages in the last time and decided nope. In 2011, I sent it to a friend who wanted to read it and she still hasn’t read it.
    I suppose I’m proud of you. And glad you connected to it — that’s priceless.

    • It took me ten years to build up the courage to tackle it. Maybe your friend will get around to it in the next few years 😉
      I was still a bit lost in some parts – all that stuff about politics and economics was so far over my head. Some people say it makes a huge difference which edition/translation you read. I had a Penguin one, which I thought was good coz of all the explanatory notes

  3. Anna Karenina is in my to-read list but somehow I never find the time to even start. Maybe because of the size.
    This year the book that gave me this particular feeling of preciousness is A Hand Full of Stars by Rafik Schami. I would recommend it for a short read 🙂

    • I haven’t heard of that book before, but it sounds intriguing. I’ll add it to my list! Thanks for the recommendation 🙂

      Getting started always seems to be the hardest part. When I was reading Anna Karenina, I often didn’t read more than a few pages a day, and some days I didn’t even pick it up, but I somehow made it through! Hope you get around to it eventually 🙂

  4. Haha I surely hope so. The problem with occasionally picking up and continuing a book is that, sometimes I can’t remember the storyline anymore and have to restart from the beginning 😅

  5. When I take too long to read a book (not that I’m going to tackle anything like AK) I sometimes forget earlier bits and have to flip back trying to find certain passages or explanations. (ex: “Wait, wait, who is Joe???”)

    “has not only kept me company but comforted me and taught me various things over the last few months” = great quote

    • I’m a bit the same. That’s why I had to really focus every time I read it. It was good that my edition had a list of principal characters at the start too (including how everyone’s related)

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