Review: Beloved by Toni Morrison

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BelovedTitle: Beloved

Author: Toni Morrison

Publisher: Vintage

Pages:Paperback, 324 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Summary: Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, bur eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison

Review

My Thoughts:

It’s hard to tell exactly what this book is about. Since I’ve finished it I’ve been thinking about it and to my frustration the word that ends this phrase doesn’t pop in my mind: “Beloved is a tale of…”.

Beloved is hard to define, and though my previously refered felling of frustration I can’t stop thinking about this great book, and every time I think about it, a whole new interpretation of it, or of one of its many chapters or events turns crystal clear to me.

But even though I can’t sum up the whole book in one word, I still enjoyed it, and maybe not being able to define it is one of the reasons why I loved it so much.

Beloved was my introduction to Toni Morrison and the first pages of it where hard to get into. The writing style was a bit (OK, more than a bit) confusing to me, and I kept re-reading what I had already read to be sure that I had get the main points, but after a few pages everything became OK, and I could finally appreciate the book.

Beloved story is not linear or straight forward so reading it was a brain exercise, but a great and fun exercise, that I will like to repeat. The reason this story it’s not straight forward is because different characters see and intrepert the events of the plot in diverse ways due to their diverse backgrounds: for instance Sethe interpretations are marked by her time has slave, Paul D’s ones’ are marked by the several adversities he faced after Sweet Home and by the fact that he managed to overcome them,… More than interesting I found this method fascinating because it’s a great way for the reader to discover and understand better the characters. The only problem that I think some people might have with this way of telling the story is that the narrators are very unreliable because of it.

 Beloved story is great, but it was the whimsical feeling that I had while reading the book that kept me turning pages. The book sometimes gives to me the some feelings that fairy tales give me, that anything, good or bad, is possible, and that the boundaries of reality may be trespassed.

Final Thoughts:

A great book that will make you think about how past influences present and future, and how far love can go.

Favourite quotes:

 “The future was a matter of keeping the past at bay.”

“She told them that the only grace they could have was the grace they could imagine. That if they could not see it, they would not have it.”

“Clever, but schoolteacher beat him anyway to show him that definitions belonged to the definers—not the defined.”

Review: The Woman Who Stole the Rain by Teolinda Gersão (Short Story)

Since I started blogging I noticed that I started to read fewer works by portuguese authors and I wanted to fix it, but without hurting the blog, because as most of the books written by portuguese authors aren’t translated there was no point of reviewing them, and as I’m not the fastest reader, I was afraid that the blog wouldn’t have content for a long time. Finally I worked that out (especially because the blog is supposed to enlarge my reading horizons and not shrink them), but I couldn’t be more delighted to find (thanks Kinna for sharing!) this short story by a portuguese writer translated to English, because that way I could blog about it, and share with you a bit of portuguese literature.

Let me confess to you that before reading Kinna’s post I had never heard about Teolinda Gersão, and that was what made me curious to go and have a look at the short story.

The Woman Who Stole the Rain tells the story of business man who during his business trip to Lisbon, in the midst of his luxurious suite of a 5 stars hotel, manages to “travel” to a poor village in Africa through eavesdropping the conversation between to housekeepers.

What I liked more about this short story was not the plot itself, but the feeling that it gives to you. In a moment you are in a fancy hotel room, in the other you are in an African village devastated by drought. Since the beginning of this second narrative you get the feeling that this story is going to end up badly, and well it does.

This short story, in a few pages, manages to capture the differences between our privilege world and the hard life many people live in Africa and other places. It strikes you, really, as it striked the narrator. You can really sense the cultures clash.

Teolinda Grasão’s writing style is fluid, linear and straight forward, there aren’t any flourishes, which goes really well with the story and the message that she is trying to pass.

Favourite Quotes:

“I smiled to myself when I saw just where I had ended up, thanks to this lack of  efficiency, a lack which the manager appeared to attribute to the workings of  fate or chance.” (I founded this one funny because it characterizes really well the state of mind of several portuguese)

“And then, suddenly, I had opened one of the doors and found, in the next room, a  piece of Africa, perfectly intact, like an area of virgin jungle. For seven  minutes, exactly seven minutes, I had been lost in the jungle.”

 

BBAW, Day 4 , Readers

Book bloggers blog because we love reading. Has book blogging changed the way you read? Have you discovered books you never would have apart from book blogging? How has book blogging affected your book acquisition habits? Have you made new connections with other readers because of book blogging? Choose any one of these topics and share your thoughts today!

 

This topic is the easy one for me, because since I started to blog I changed quite a lot my reading habits.

For starters I read more, and try to find more time to read (that means less TV, which is great, especially for my mental health), secondly, lately I’ve been paying more attention to my ratio between POC writers and white writers. Before started blogging I hadn’t noticed that publishers neglected POC writers but thankfully the blogosphere opened my eyes, because I didn’t know what I was missing; right now I’m reading Beloved by Toni Morrison, and though the book is complex I’m loving it, and the story is getting me really involved.

Another thing that changed is the size of  my TBR/whish-list/you name it. Visiting other blogs, that focus in so many different genres allows me to get to know several other books that I wouldn’t otherwise heard about. Some of these books are old, some of them are really new, which make an amazing reading diet.

What about you?

 

 

BBAW, Day 3, The Community II

Todays topic is again the book blogger community, but today he should talk about:

The world of book blogging has grown enormously and sometimes it can be hard to find a place. Share your tips for finding and keeping community in book blogging despite the hectic demands made on your time and the overwhelming number of blogs out there. If you’re struggling with finding a community, share your concerns and explain what you’re looking for–this is the week to connect!

As a new book blogger I found this theme very interesting. I’ve stared blogging in the end of June, and I haven’t still found community of book blogs where I feel like I belong. I mean I know of a couple of bloggers that share a similar reading taste with me, but maybe because I’m too shy I haven’t got the nerve to talk to them on Twitter or to e-mail them (right now the only person blogger I have e-mailed is Eva, and thankfully she was very nice and gaved me lots of advice about book blogging), sure I left comments on their blogs, but I’m a very poor commenter so my comments rarely have content that the author of the post my be inclined to discuss, basically my comments are not thoughtful, and I’m trying to work on that. Also one of my big problems is being scared of participating in conversations on Twitter, because I’m afraid to say something wrong, or that the people involved in the conversation don’t want me to join,… Again, I’m very shy.

The book blogging community seems great and luckily I  have already met some great bloggers and I hope I met more, but I still feel like I haven’t found a place in the community. I’m working on that, I can’t wait to read some posts that share tips about how this subject.

Have a very nice day!

BBAW, Day 2 – Book Blogger Interview Swap

Hello!

Today is the interview swap, and I get to interview the lovely Jackie from Farm Lane Book Blog, I’m sure that several of you already know her but if you don’t go and check her blog.

So here is the interview:

Me: After 3 years of blogging what do you find most rewarding?

Jackie: The most rewarding thing about blogging is the interaction I have with my blog readers. I love it when people read my blog and then leave a wonderful comment. Discussing the books that I’ve read is something I can’t do with my ‘real life’ friends so it is lovely to have a place where I’m able to do this. The comments often make me look at books in a different light, or pick up on things that I hadn’t noticed – it really enriches the reading experience.

Me: What’s your favourite childhood book?

Jackie:  Duncton Wood by William Horwood. I loved reading the adventures of those moles. It was gripping, emotional and thought-provoking – everything I look for in a book today.

Me: Is there a book that you always meant to read, but never did? What’s its title?

Jackie: The list of books I want to read is enormous! Most of the books I keep neglecting are really long. A Suitable Boy, Anna Karenina, and The Makioka Sisters have probably been on my shelf for the longest length of time.

Me: If money and space weren’t a problem, how would your dream library be?

Jackie: I think I’d have a series of interconnecting reading rooms – one for each of my reading moods. I’d start with a nice light room, with large windows overlooking beautiful lakes/mountains. This would then lead to a soft room, packed with giant fluffy cushions and then I’d have a dark room with an open fire place – perfect for spookier reads. Each room would contain one or two walls of shelving containing the type of books I’d enjoy reading in that particular room.

Me: Where do you read?

Jackie: Anywhere I can, but I most enjoy reading in the bath or in bed.

Thank you Jackie! I also like to read in the bath.

I hope you all have fun reading the other interviews! Go over to Jackie’s blog and see my wordless answers to her questions.

BBAW – Day 1, The Community

I’m a new blogger, so I didn’t get to explore most of the community, but for what I saw , the book blogger community is a very friendly one, and there are book blogs for all tastes.

Today, we are supposed to highlight some  other book bloggers that make book blogging a great experience and thank them, so here is my list, along with a short explanation:

Eva @Stripped Armchair – Eva helped me in the beginning of my blog with great suggestions, and she was very kind and patient. Also she is a great book blogger and I in a few years I expect to run a blog that has such a great content, and that’s such pleasant to read as Stripped Armchair.

Nymeth @things mean a lot –  She was the first (and only  portuguese book blogger that I found, and I really liked that because practically all the book bloggers are American or British, so for me it was great to see that there is someone from my  country rules a pretty successful book blog. Also I love her blog because her reviews are really insightful

Iris @Iris on Books , Amy @Amy Reads and Simon @Savidge Reads – These very successful bloggers that  post almost daily very interesting and well written posts that I love to read.

I also I would love to thank all the book blogger community. You are great guys and I’m sorry for my lousy ability to write thank you posts, because since I started blogging, I fell much more happier, because finally I can talk about books as much as I want to and there is always someone to listen.

 

Review: Inés of My Soul by Isabel Allende

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Title: Inés of my Soul

Author: Isabel Allende

Pages:  Hardcover, 336 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Historical

Summary: In the early years of the conquest of the Americas, Inés Suárez, a seamstress condemned to a life of toil, flees Spain to seek adventure in the New World. As Inés makes her way to Chile, she begins a fiery romance with Pedro de Valdivia, war hero and field marshal to the famed Francisco Pizarro. Together the lovers will build the new city of Santiago, and they will wage war against the indigenous Chileans—a bloody struggle that will change Inés and Valdivia forever, inexorably pulling each of them toward separate destinies.

Inés of My Soul is a work of breathtaking scope that masterfully dramatizes the known events of Inés Suárez’s life, crafting them into a novel rich with the narrative brilliance and passion readers have come to expect from Isabel Allende.

Review

My Thoughts:

This was the first book that I read by Isabel Allende and the first book that I read for my month-long reading of books written by women, and let me say it I couldn’t have picked a better book to start with.

Inés my Soul has everything that I appreciate in a book: a strong female character, ethnicity, historically exact facts, great and vivid descriptions of exotic places, description of battles that don’t last for pages and pages, a lot of strong emotions, and also lots of elements of magic realism that fit perfectly.

Inés Suaréz is a real historical figure and she was one of the few women that had an important part in Chile’s conquest. In the book she is portrayed as a strong, practical, somewhat rebellious, pragmatic, maverick and passionate woman. Basically she is a force of nature, and a woman without equal in her time. She is the narrator of the book and her voice feels real and authentic, especially because the language used though it’s not exactly accurate to the time where the story is set, is accurate to Inés’s social background. Also her voice adapts perfectly to all the moments: the ones of reflection, the ones of passion, and the ones of fear.

Though Pedro of Valdivia is not my favourite Inés’s lover, he is certainly a great character during most of the book, except in the end when he becomes lazy, and turns obsessed with titles. I appreciated his courage, his idealism, his passion and devotion.

Rodrigo of Quiroga is Inés’s lover that I appreciated more,he is as brave as Valdivia but he keeps is integrity to the end.

One of the aspects that I most loved in this book are the descriptions of the Mapuche’s rituals and of their lives. Before this book I had never read anything about the conquest of Chile by the Spanish and about the indigenous habitants of South America so I can’t exactly attest the accuracy of the rituals that Allende describes, what I can say is that the scenes where those mythical rituals are described are very vivid and full of mysticism and I became very much engaged with the book during these parts. Actually the thing that I most appreciate in Allende’s writing is the way that she manages to engage the reader with the emotion full prose she writes.

Another strong scene is the one that describes the Mapuche attack at Santiago. I don’t want to give any spoilers so let’s just say that in this scene we see how brave Inés is and how dedicated she is to Santiago.

I can’t finish this review without talking about women roles and racism in this book.

Let’s start by the first. Inés Suarés lived in the sixteenth century when women didn’t have the same rights as men and when it was said that women were mentally inferior to men so they only served for sex, to take care of the house and of the children. Inés is the opposite to all that, as I said before she is a kind of nonconformist but still, she is very much aware of the women situation, and she despises it:

Courage is a virtue appreciated in a male but considered a defect in our gender. Bold women are a threat to a world that is badly out of balance, in favor of men. That is why they work so hard to mistreat us and destroy us. But remember that bold women are like cockroaches: step on one and others come running from the corners

and

I suppose they will put statues of me in town squares, and that there will be, certainly, roads and cities with my name, as there will be with Pedro of Valdivia’s and other conquers’ names, but hundreds of women that struggled so hard to found cities, while their husbands fought, will be, almost certainly, forgotten. (my tranlation)

I feel that the last quote especially is very important because this book tells us about Inés and about all the noble, and hard things she did while living and conquering Chile by Valdivia’s side, but the thing is that she is hardly known, and historians seem to have forgotten about her, and about the women role, not only in the conquest of Chile and in the founding and maintenance of cities, but also in other periods of History.

Now, to the second subject: racism. When we read this book, we have to remember the time when it’s set, because in the 16th century, people were racist and not only white people towards the other races; the other races had prejudices too, and we see that in this book, because the Mapuche had a strong hate towards other races and the Spanish weren’t the only ones they tried to kill. Their neighbours ,the Incas, also had some problems with them. Obviously this doesn’t justify what the Spanish did, they were cruel and brutal. So, just a heads up, if you decide to read this book, there will be some racism.

Final Thoughts:

A well written book, with strong emotions, and a great plot.

Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy Parts 5 to 8

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I’ve finished it, after 17 days I’ve finished it. When I closed the book I was left with a feeling of almost nostalgia, it felt like I’ve just said goodbye to a dear friend. It surprises me I loved this book so much. Before I read it, I though this one would be one of those books, that though I was scared to read I would end up appreciating the writing, and being very happy because I get at least a tinny bit of the message the author was trying to pass. I sure did not think I would be so moved by this book.

I don’t want to give many plot details because I would hate to spoil the book for you, but I would like to analyze a few things, and explain (if I can find the words for it) how and why the book had such an impact on me.

In the last post I compared Anna and Kitty’s characters, and as I said, now I want to compare theirs relationships with Vronsky and Lévin, respectively, as Tolstoy explores them more deeply  in these parts ( 5,6,7 and 8).

Kitty and Lévin finally get married, and though their first months together weren’t easy, they fought quite a lot and  had some difficulties to adjust the habits they had developed through their single lives to their married life, they continued to love each other deeply.  After those months were over, and after a major event that proved to Lévin that Kitty was not as fragile as he thought she was, their life together becomes much easier and agreeable.

 

The contrary happens to Anna and Vronsky. This couple started their life together very happily, in Italy, but their relationship and feelings towards each other cool down during the rest of the plot leading to the tragic ending of the story.

Also the way each of the couples lives is very different: Kitty and Lévin always live in the countryside, except during the last months of Kitty’s pregnancy since it was safer to have a child in Moscow than in the middle of nowhere. This couple is very happy in the countryside, living in a simple but comfortable way, always loving each other. Again the opposite happens to the other couple. Vronsky and Anna lived in Italy, Moscow, Petersburg, and in the countryside. In all this places they lived with extreme luxury and comfort, but as the luxury was increasing, their feelings were cooling, and Anna was felling more sad and disturbed.

But what’s the biggest difference between these couples is not the way they live but their feelings towards the object of their love, and the way they feel and express this feeling. Vronsky and Anna’s love is purely carnal, it’s incomplete, while Lévin and Kitty’s love is more than carnal, it is spiritual, and it’s very strong. Understanding this allowed me to understand the reason Anna killed herself. With Vronsky, Anna was looking for a away of experimenting true love. The kind of love she had never heard about but knew on her soul that existed (“And that knowledge I did not acquire in any way; it was given to me as to everybody, given because I could not take it from anywhere” Lévin says in the end of the novel) . Sure she was already married but it was a marriage without  emotion, it was a marriage arranged by convenience. So, Anna met Vronsky and since the first moment she is attracted to him, she loves him deeply, or so she thinks, she drops everything for him, her son, her life, her social status, and she does all that thinking that this is it, this is where she finally gets what she desires. But their life together isn’t what she expected.

… the eternal error people make in imagining that happiness is the realization of desires.

Because of Anna’s social status, as a cheating wife, society didn’t respect her, so she  avoided it, but that only made her and Vronsky (especially him) feel trapped. And so their feelings started to cool down, to the point where the love they had felt disappears and the only thing that’s left is a physical attraction that is not enough, the happiness that Anna pretends to feel vanishes as well. After comes Anna’s jealousy: the society accepts Vronsky because he is a man, and rich, and noble, so Vronky starts to frequent it, leaving Anna alone with her own mind. She starts to imagine that Vronsky has another lover, that he plans to leave her, and she starts to get crazy (there’s no nice way of saying it), which eventually leads to her death.

For me, what Tolstoy is trying to say (among other things) is that true love, is much more than an attraction, and that if it is discovered it will give great pleasure.

Now, off to the reasons why this books was so remarkable to me.

One of the reasons I loved this book so much is because of Tolstoy’s writing; it’s fluid, clear and on top of all very emotional. While reading Anna Karenina I felt the same that the characters felt, which made the story much more alive. One of the scenes where I felt my mood more influenced by Tolstoy writing was when I was reading the moments prior to Anna’s suicide. Most of this moments are internal monologues, and Anna quickly moves from thought to thought, in an hectic and disturbed way.

The other reason why I liked this book so much was because of Tolstoy cast of characters. As I said before they all seem very real and we get to met each of them slowly, through the cross of the book, which is great because it helps to avoid any confusion with names and nature of each of them. My favourite character remains Lévin, he is truthful, and he feels like a real human being with compassionate feelings. I saw some parts of me in Lévin, as for instance his need to understand the unknown, to understand who he is, and what’s is mission on earth. I don’t let that affect my life in the way Lévin did, and I sure do not feel the urge to kill myself, but I do want to find the answer to that questions and I do use books as a way to find it.

You must read this one.

A New Project – A whole month of Literature by Women.

Since I read this post at Novel Insights I’ve been thinking about the fact that men (not all of them I know) usually don’t read books written by women. I thought about writing about this subject, but after reading so many posts about it ( here is one by Simon, and here is a series of posts done by B.) I understood that this subject had already been discussed, and I felt like there was nothing else I could add. Also after speaking with some men about their reading tastes and the reason they don’t read books by women I realized that they couldn’t be more wrong about women authors. Most of them thought that women authors only wrote books that fitted the romance genre, you know, those books with a beautiful heroine that ends up marrying a hot guy, and so as this kind of books, that they think that are the only thing women can write, didn’t appeal to them (one of the guys I talked with used the word trash to refer to this type of literature, yes I know…) they didn’t read books written by women.  This answers left me pretty mad, first because of the tone they used when referring to books by women, they seemed to be mocking those books; secondly because they showed a complete ignorance about literature by women but that didn’t stop them of saying how bad those books where, and thirdly because even after I tried to correct their views, they still refused to read books by women.

So, with all of this in my mind I decided to do something to promote literature written by women and to show that not all books end up with a marriage and if they do, there’s a lot more to add about it. I though about what I should do for a long time, and then yesterday it stoke me: “Why don’t I read only books written by women during a month?”. And so I decided that in  September I’ll only read works written by women.

To make this more fun, I decided that besides novels I’ll read some poetry and short stories, maybe a work of non-fiction, and that the authors I’ll read will be from different nationalities (as I said in this post I want to read more POC authors).

So here is the incomplete list of books I plan to read, as I may take or add more books through the month:

Novels

Beloved by Toni Morrison

My daughter Paula, by Isabel Allende

The Sweetest Dream by Doris Lessing

Short Stories

Wang-Fô by Marguerite Yourcenar

The Kitchen by Lily Yulianti Farid

The Woman Who Stole the Rain by Teolinda Gersão

Solid Objects by Virginia Woolf

The Well by Badriyah Al-Bishr

Welcome to the Club by Nadine Bismuth

Poetry

I plan to read some poems by these poets:

Elizabeth Bishop

Emily Dickinson

Maya Angelou

So this is my list. I plan read all the works listed above in September, and maybe others.

This is a personal challenge but if you want to feel free to join.

So, what do you think?

Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy Parts 1-4

I know that last week I said that I would do 4 posts about this book, but then I decided to do just two.

Anna Karenina was  for me one of those books that you want to read, but at the same time, the thought of reading it, scares you. So Anna Karenina,rested on the shelves for about a year, before I get brave enough to dive into it.

Tolstoy started this book in a unusual way (at least for me). Instead of presenting the major characters in the opening chapters, he presented the brother of the main character, and the mess that his family life became because of the discover of his affair by his wife. In spite of unusual, this beginning is also meaningful, because it’s a prelude to the story and some of the main themes are presented in it such as :love, family life, and marriage. As one critic called it, this part is the “Oblonsky’s prelude”, being Oblonsky Anna’s brother.

So, we met Oblonsky and though he is a very cheerful character and everybody seems to like him, I don’t, he just seems fake (that doesn’t mean  Tolstoy made a bad job, according to my research, the Russian high society of the 19th century had a fake nature, and Oblonsky is part of the Russian high-society of the 19th century, so actually Tolstoy made a very good job) as well as a bunch of characters that appear later  in the book and that are part of the high society of Moscow and Petersburg. Both of these urban places, are  home for many characters that are very hateful because all of them  love to speak ill of their “friends”, are idle (even the ones that are considered the “great minds”, because they prefer to only think instead of taking actions), and speak French only to show that they are from an higher social class (again according to my research, Tolstoy used French in Anna Karenina to show us the characters that are not truthful).

So, as I said before, the book starts with Oblosnky’s troubled family life, and we get to meet him, the example of the typical high society man (though he is not as mean as others), but a few pages later, though we still have to wait to meet Anna, we meet an important character: Lévin. Lévin is probably my favourite character, and I’ve read that Tolstoy used himself as inspiration to create him. Lévin is the opposite to everything related to the high society and the city life, though he is part of the aristocracy. He is conscious of his faults, he likes to work and he understands that he has to work to feel good, and to Russia evolve, he tries to help is country not only by trying to find a theory to improve agriculture, but also tries to prove it ( contrary to the “great minds”), all his feelings are true, and according to his actions (something that doesn’t happen with people from the cities). In conclusion he is the true Russian. Speaking of which: according to my research, Russians from the 19th century were a bit confused because they didn’t know who they truly where (not in what we can call the teenage sense, but rather in the country’s identity sense); for many years people used the european imported traditions (the French language comes from there), but those traditions, didn’t come naturally to Russians (that’s why the people who still used them seemed fake), and so in the 19th century some Russians (in the book represented by Lévin), started to try to find their true Russian soul, and despised all the city life, because it was contrary to what they believed and felt it was their true nature. Though in the book Lévin represented those people, we can see that even the high society from the cities was affected sometimes by these kind of  thoughts:

But how marriages were made now, the princess could not learn from any one. The French fashion–of the parents arranging their children’s future–was not accepted; it was condemned. The English fashion of the complete independence of girls was also not accepted, and not possible in Russian society.

The Russian fashion of match-making by the offices of intermediate persons was for some reason considered unseemly; it was ridiculed by every one, and by the princess herself. But how girls were to be married, and how parents were to marry them, no one knew.

So, we met Lévin, and now, before meeting Anna, we still have to meet other two very important characters: Kitty, the young woman who Lévin loves deeply, and Vronsky, the man she is in love with but who (BIG SPOILER, but you probably know this already), will love Anna (when he gets to meet her, actually by this part I was starting to think that they would only meet in the end of the book, but thankfully that didn’t happen).

So let’s start by Kitty; she is a pure, naïve young girl, that has only been in the society for a few months (if she had been in the society for more time, she wouldn’t be so naïve). Kitty is 18, and through the book, she will grow up, and become a wiser woman, though she never loses the ability to be a fresh breeze in the midst of all the characters from the big cities ( if you know what I mean). One of the scenes where we really understand that Kitty is growing up is when she wants to become a better person and tries to help the people that are sick. Though some of her resolutions are childish and we understand that  she will hardly take an action towards completing them because of her nature, I think that only the fact that she understands that the life she has been living is somewhat shallow, and that being the most beautiful girl in a ball isn’t enough to fulfil her is a sign of growth.She understands that she needs more, and though in the end she decides  to not live a life completely devoted to the others, she doesn’t return to her earlier self, having found a middle point where she is comfortable and happy. Also in the last chapters of Part 2, Kitty thinks about of her way of seeing religion, and though  she returns to her old views, the ones she had been taught and accepted without question until then,when she ponders them I think this is again a sign of growth. I’ll return to Kitty later, when I speak about Anna, but now, let’s talk about Vronsky. Vronsky is,as Oblonsky, a high society man and in the very wise words of Kitty’s father:

 a peacock, like this feather-head, who’s
only amusing himself.

And that is exactly what Vronsky is. He likes to amuse himself, he likes the society, and he moves very well in it, and he likes to flirt with beautiful girls  but doesn’t care about their feelings. I didn’t like him very much (and I still don’t), but Vronski, after falling in love with Anna, does somethings, and has some attitudes that I appreciate. Actually, when (spoiler) Anna is very sick he is so sad, and desperate that I felt sorry for him, but still, despite those specific moments I don’t exactly like him.

And so the plot moves on, and until here we have Lévin that loves Kitty, that loves Vronski, that will love Anna, that finally appears.

Anna, is a good character, and she is believable. She is not beautiful, but she is attractive, she is kind and intelligent,and we understand why people like her so much. But though I think she is a well-developed character , as all the characters in the novel, her happiness (and sorrow), depends too much  on the men of her life , which is something that really annoys me, because almost all female characters in this and other novels of the same time do this. I find hard to believe that women could depend so much on men at an emotional level, and let their attitudes towards them have such an effect in their lives, making them extremely anxious, or sad.  I know that women depended a lot of men in that time because they didn’t have access to higher education (or to lower) so they couldn’t work and earn money, and because working women had lower salaries than men, but I think that it was not necessary for women to depend so much emotionally on men. I understand that in a relationship there’s always one person that’s the stronger, but that doesn’t mean that the woman is always the weaker one, and that the man is always the stronger one, as male novelist of the 19th (and other centuries as well) like to tell us (please if you know a book where the opposite happens please let me know).

Moving on… While reading I noticed that Anna and Kitty as well as their future relationships with Vronski and Lévin,respectively, are compared and contrasted in a subtle way. I think that the moment where you can really see the biggest differences between Anna and Kitty is in the ball scene. In that scene you can really understand the purity, happiness,prettiness and inexperience of Kitty, compared to the attractiveness and experience of Anna. Is in this scene that Kitty understands that Vronski is no longer interested in her and prefers Anna. The comparison between the relationships is more clear in part five, so I will talk about it in the next post.

Now, the last character I want to talk about is Aleksey Alesksandrovitch, Anna’s husband. He is a cold human being, and I despised him most of the times, especially for the way he treated Anna and their son,but in the end of part 4, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him, because he changed so much, and became so much nicer, that I felt Anna, Oblosnki, and Betty, were too harsh with him.

I really enjoyed Tolstoy’s writing, and I love that he used internal monologues so much.

As many writers, Tolstoy uses his characters motivations,actions, and nature as vehicles to develop the themes he wants, but what I think it’s unique about Tolstoy’s writing is that one character, isn’t limited to be the vehicle of development of one theme but rather is the vehicle of development of several themes, and when you have a set of characters as big as this one, you have an authentic web of actions, consequences and motivations that slowly develop several ideas that the author wants us to get. In the beginning I founded this rather confusing  since I’m used to read books, where one or more characters, are only connected to one theme , but now, that I get used to this style, I don’t have any problems with it.

I’m really enjoying Anna Karenina and despite some parts where there’s a lot of talk about agriculture, I almost never get bored.