I’m reading Anna Karenina so you don’t have to.
When I told my husband I’d started reading the novel, he said, “Did you lose a bet?”
No…but I’m hoping I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew. Right now, I’m all about Anna Karenina, and here is my summary/analysis/modern interpretation of part 1, chapters 10-15.
Levin and Stiva go out for dinner and Stiva gets all fancy, ordering champagne and oysters. Levin, who’s committed to being a country dude, pontificates about the difference between his farmer’s lifestyle and the city lifestyle, and remarks that in the city they try to stretch out meals and (gasp!) make them enjoyable. Stiva says:
Levin responds that if that’s the case, he’d rather be a savage. (Yeah, he’s a real fun guy, right?)
Then they switch gears and Levin tells Stiva he wants to propose to Kitty (who’s roughly half Levin’s age. That never gets mentioned and I find that icky, but oh well.) Stiva, who’s a people pleaser except for when it comes to his wife, tells Levin that he thinks it will definitely work out. He even says that his wife, Dolly, has a knack for prophecy, and she said that Levin and Kitty would for sure get married. It’s unclear if Stiva is telling the truth here, or if he’s pulling it out of his ass because that’s just what he does.
We’re still at dinner with Stiva and Levin. Stiva orders another bottle of wine, and then he devastates Levin by telling him that Kitty is into another guy–Vronsky. He assures Levin that his chances with Kitty are still good, but that he should propose ASAP and lock things down.
Then he confides in Levin, and tells him about his affair with the nanny. Stiva doesn’t get it, saying that he’d never stray with a “fallen” woman, just like he wouldn’t go to a bakery right after dinner and steal fresh rolls. And Stiva says, “Why not? A roll will sometimes smell so good one can’t resist it.”
Even though they’re both kind of disgusting here, comparing women to food, I like Stiva more than Levin. Levin also compares fallen women to vermin, saying that it’s fine to cast them off. But Stiva loves beautiful women and simply can’t resist their charms.
This is a Kitty-centric chapter. She’s Princess Shtcherbatskaya’s youngest daughter (Dolly is the eldest) and she’s beautiful and full of charm. Kitty likes Levin well enough to hang out with him, but she’s head over heels for Vronsky, an officer who’s a good looking alpha male type. The Princess wants Kitty to marry Vronsky, not Levin, and so the stage is set for what we know will be a major disappointment for everyone involved.
Levin comes over and proposes to Kitty. It doesn’t go well.
Kitty remembers Vronsky and how much she digs him, and she shoots Levin down. Levin tries to leave quickly, but that doesn’t go well either.
Kitty’s bitchy friend drops by, and Levin gets stuck talking to her, and he’s super awkward. Things go from bad to worse when Vronsky also stops over. Vronsky doesn’t realize that Levin just proposed to Kitty, nor does he truly get (or care) that Kitty is way more into him than he is into her. Levin can’t seem to find the door, and he gets sucked into a round of “table-turning”, which is sort of like performing a séance. And you guessed it–Levin hates anything that has to do with the occult, and he goes on this pedantic diatribe about how electricity and science are way better and different than trying to contact ghosts. I don’t disagree, but my God, Levin is a bore.
After Kitty goes to bed, her mom and dad get into a mega argument about her marriage prospects. Dad doesn’t think Vronsky is the commitment type, and he’s angry that Kitty turned down Levin and the Mom encouraged it, because Vronsky will never put a ring on it. (Spoiler alert: he’s right.)
So. We’re 15 chapters in, and there’s still no sign of Anna.
Don’t worry. She finally materializes in chapter 18. But can you imagine if you were trying to pitch this novel to an agent nowadays? I think they’d have a problem with the title character not appearing for roughly 100 pages in.
Next time, I’ll be adapting the scene where Anna and Vronsky first lay eyes on each other. It’s very dramatic. Stay tuned.