Anna Karenina – I’ve just finished this from my top 100 books list. It took me about 5 months – it took me such a long time because I found it pretty tedious and kept not wanting to pick it up. I read War and Peace last year and found that similarly dull, but was heartened when I read the blurb on my copy of AK which said “AK could not be more different to Tolstoy’s other great work W&P”. Bollocks – it’s exactly the same; the characters aren’t very likeable or interesting – they’re a lot of rich, upper-class Russians worrying about their relationships and finances and looking at the peasants and wishing they had a simpler life like them.
Often, the characters just seem to be used as mouthpieces for the author to lecture about his own ideas. Which wouldn’t be so bad, if his favourite topics to lecture on – local government and agriculture – weren’t so bloody tedious.*
Tolstoy apparently thought that Shakespeare was shit, so that makes me feel better about thinking that Tolstoy’s dull. I guess you can’t ever really judge if you’re only reading translations, but I think I’ve got enough of an idea not to be bothered learning Russian any time soon.
*I don’t know if anyone remembers the last ever episode of Brookside – they just decided not to bother with any more plot and Jimmy Corkhill just sat round ranting about politics, obviously Phil Redmond’s chance to get some things off his chest. There’s bits of that all through the book, and then the last 80 pages is completely devoted to it (same for W&P).