Anna Karenina took up about six weeks of my life and left me with a huge book hangover. Months later, I still find myself thinking about the novel, but it’s been difficult to put my thoughts into a coherent review.
There are many things I’d like to discuss about Anna Karenina – the characterisation, the writing, the themes explored. So I’ve decided to do something a little different and write a number of shorter posts about the book. Today I’ll start with a few thoughts about my favourite character and, in my mind, the real protagonist of the novel.
Levin made quite an impression on me, with his constant contemplation of life, religion, love and death. He is awkward in the company of strangers and, to the amusement of his friends, prefers the hard work and honesty of the countryside to the luxuries of the city. Sometimes this can make him judgmental of the way others live their lives, but he is just as hard on himself. Levin often gets it wrong, but his heart is in the right place and he always strives to be good.
One of Levin’s weaknesses is that he often overthinks things. The reader might cringe at some of his moments of awkwardness, but after spending so much time in his head, we understand his thought process. His emotions are often extreme and can take over his life. When in love, he lives in a daze of happiness, but he also sinks into stretches of morbid reflections on morality.
At times it was quite a slog to get through Levin’s chapters, particularly his musings about different styles of farming and the political debates. But I’ve often heard that Tolstoy can make you look at life differently and it’s Levin’s parts that I found most thought-provoking, even if I couldn’t fully grasp everything. Months later, I still have scenes that have stayed with me, most of which involve a solitary Levin surrounded by nature, pondering life and trying to find the meaning behind it all.
I will always hold a special flame for Levin in my heart and I’m sure many other readers will too. I think it’s probably because he is a bit of an outsider, and don’t we all feel like outsiders at some point in our lives?
If you’d like to read more about Levin, or anything Tolstoy related, check out the blog Tolstoy Therapy. I’d particularly recommend the post about the ‘authenticity of Levin‘ and the one exploring Levin’s retreat into nature.
Interested in learning more about Levin? Click on the picture below to buy Anna Karenina!