I couldn’t wait for this month’s Classics Challenge prompt because I want to talk with you about my current classic and how much I am loving it. I never expected to like Anna Karenina, yet it turns out that I adore it. It is easy to read, full of realistic insights into human emotions, provides a dazzling look into high society in Moscow and Petersburg  in the 1870’s and is packed with irresistible melodrama.

This month Katherine’s prompt is all about setting. So let’s talk about where Anna Karenina takes place. I am about 150 pages into the novel and, so far, most of the action has happened in the homes of the main characters and in the homes of their friends and family members. Tolstoy does not use a lot of description so the reader is left to imagine what these homes look like and how they are arranged. This is a very Victorian novel so my imagination directs me to envisage extravagant Victorian interiors with a French influence as high society in Russia seems to be heavily influenced by the French at this time. I imagine something like this (minus the telephone):

from http://www.latesthousedesigns.com/victorian-apartment-interior-design-in-france/

Other than this narrow indoor setting, I’ve just started reading about Levin’s farm. Tolstoy takes a bit more care in describing the farm, the crops Levin grows, the pastures where the cattle graze, the barn, the forest. It is much easier to see Tolstoy’s vision of the farm than that of his idea of the rooms where Anna and Vronsky seal their relationship.

I surmise from this lack of detail that Tolstoy is much more interested in the characters, how they act and the choices they make and how these choices affect their families and society at large than the color of the furniture in their drawing rooms.

Do you like lots of detail about setting when you read a novel? Or does it not matter to you?

12 Comments

  1. I don’t have a good visual imagination, so I can’t picture the settings in my mind. But with the picture you posted, I see what you mean. That’s why I love google images – and also google maps, for the story’s setting(s).

    I have never been able to read Tolstoy, though I think I’ve bought at least three copies of Anna K. over the years – once of these days I know it will click!

    • I love looking up images to fit my idea of the setting I’m reading about! So invaluable to my understanding of a novel.
      I know lots of people who detest AK, but I like the drama.

  2. I’m so pleased that you’re loving this. For a long time I was scared of Tolstoy, but this one does appeal and I have it on my Classics Club list.

  3. I had this on my 2011 reading list and still haven’t got around to it, I did read War and Peace though. I’m definitely going to read it soon as you’re enjoying it. I really do like description in books, whether it’s scenery, clothing, faces or rooms but I’ll manage without it!

    • I like description, too, but I can piece together enough info to make my own assumptions about how things look!
      Now, War & Peace scares me! But Anna K. scared me also so maybe there isn’t anything to be nervous of?

  4. It’s many many years since I read Anna Karenina and the story is not fresh in my mind, but I’d really like to revisit it. Like you say, I remember it as being very readable. Can’t remember descriptions of interiors, but I do like detail – especially clothes and interiors!

  5. look forward to your review of this ,all the best stu

  6. The picture you chose exactly captures how I envisioned the interiors when I read this. I have an embarassingly bad memory when it comes to remembered names of characters or even certain plot points, but I find that the image I get from a book’s setting is the only think that really stays with me over time. I remember Anna Karenina most for it contrast of lush, lavish homes with the stark, cold outdoor landscape of Russia.

  7. Description draws you into the author’s world. It has to be balanced, otherwise it can make you want to skip pages.

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