As booksellers, we often overhear customers lamenting that they've always meant to read “that other Jane Austen novel,” or Graham Greene, or Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but just never found the time. We've tried to remedy that with our Classics I Forgot to Read Book Club by providing motivation and a welcoming space to share your thoughts.

In choosing our ‘classics’ over the past few years, we've tried to select titles that had some visibility among readers, but were not necessarily included in the standard high school English class. We've also sampled a range of genres, from mystery (The Long Goodbye) to comedy (Cold Comfort Farm) to stream-of-consciousness (To the Lighthouse). So, whether our picks are already gathering dust on your bookshelves or this is your first encounter with the literary canon, we encourage you to join us on the last Wednesday evening of every month for conversation about the classics.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

August 2008-- Anna Karenina

by Leo Tolstoy

If there is a "Greatest Novels" list that doesn't include Anna Karenina, we haven't seen it. Just as a love story, a dramatic tale of passion and adultery, it's rich and subtle, full of ecstasy and (more often) angst. But so much more is packed into its 800+ pages--a wealth of detail about 19th-century Russia, from its farms to its palaces; withering satire of society's hypocrisies; political and religious commentary, and even a second love affair, which ends more happily than that of the title character.

A few of the questions we pondered at our book club meeting:

Why did Tolstoy give Anna's husband and her lover the same first name?

Of the three characters in the central romantic triangle, which (if any) is portrayed most sympathetically?

After Anna's suicide, the book continues for another sixty pages. What do those final chapters accomplish, and is Levin's religious conversion presented effectively?

We learn very little in the novel about Anna's early life and her reasons for marrying her husband. How does this omission affect our understanding of her?

Why does Tolstoy relate one scene from the point of view of Laska, Levin's hunting dog?

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