by Leo Tolstoy
Let me nitpick at Leo Tolstoy. His two great novels, this one and War and Peace, are simply too damn long. This is partly because Tolstoy could not resist lengthy, off-plot digressions about the issues of his day (military strategy in Peace; agriculture in Karenina). Also, in comparing great novelists of the 19th century, I prefer Charles Dickens, whose books feature something that’s rare in Tolstoy: humor.
I’m done nitpicking. There is a reason that Anna Karenina is considered one of the best novels of all time. Tolstoy immerses readers in his characters’ minds and keeps us there. Don’t think you can relate to a member of 1870s Russian aristocracy? You will in this book. Tolstoy’s description of Anna’s descent into madness, culminating at a train station, is one of the most devastating passages I’ve ever read.
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