Tag Archives: Tolstoy

The Russian Baker

From now on I’m going to think of Oblonsky as The Russian Baker.

You remember his love of baked goods, right?  We’re not talking about the dried-up, day-old bread either.  Oblonsky likes his rolls fresh.

In Part IV, chapter 9 Stepan Arkadyevitch Oblonsky is having a soiree.  He’s late to his own party and sees that upon his arrival things are not going well.  Oblonsky quickly puts all his guests at ease: making introductions, giving compliments, telling jokes.

In a moment he had so kneaded together the social dough that the drawing room became very lively, and there was a merry buzz of voices.

Did you catch the bread references?  “kneaded” and “dough”?
See?!  A baker!

With a little kneading a group of quiet strangers becomes a noisy gathering of friends.

Jeannette wants Anna to go dress shopping with her.
I want Oblonsky to host my next party.


Posted by on November 3, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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What kind of advice?

Anna Karenina Part III, chapter 21

Vronsky’s catching up with his friend Serpuhovskoy, a man who’s had great success in the military.  The two have an interesting conversation about women, love, and marriage.  Really Serpuhovskoy does most of the talking, and he has some interesting things to say.

Serpuhovskoy admits that Vronsky’s “known a greater number of women”,

“But I’m married, and believe me, in getting to know thorougly one’s wife, if one loves her, as someone has said, one gets to know all women better than if one knew thousands of them.”

My notes: “Interesting.  Yes, I can agree with that.  Sounds good–loving one’s wife.  Knowing her as a person.  Getting insight into the other sex through understanding one’s wife.”

Vronsky is listening attentively to the words of his experienced, married comrade.

“And here’s my opinion for you.  Women are the chief stumbling block in a man’s career.  It’s hard to love a woman and do anything.  There’s only one way of having love conveniently without its being a hindrance–that’s marriage.

My notes: “convenient love?  as in readily available?  as in ‘this way I won’t get into trouble with another man’s wife’?  How about… Marriage is good.  Affairs are bad.”

The Serpuhovskoy goes on to compare love with carrying a fardeau in his hands.  He says marriage is when the fardeau is tied on one’s back and his hands are free.

My notes: “What’s a fardeau?  (I look it up) Oh, a burden.  Loving a woman is a burden?  So being married is still a burden, but a conveninet one?”

Help me, readers.  Did Serpuhovskoy give Vronsky good advice or not?


Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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Almost the End

Anna Karenina Part II, chapter 21

Vronksy’s secret love for Anna is causing him to experience a strange feeling.  Jeannette’s translation uses the word revulsion.  Mine chose “loathing”.  Whichever word you choose, Vronsky’s lies and deceit are causing him shame and guilt.

“Yes, we must put an end to it,” he decided.

But there are hundreds of pages left in the book, so what does our author do?  In the very next chapter, Tolstoy complicates things for our main characters.

“I’m with child,” she said, softly and deliberately.

Oh, Vronsky, you were so close to breaking it off.

Fellow readers, I knew a little bit about Anna Karenina before we started.  I’d heard somewhere that it was similar to Madame Bovary but in Russian.  I even know a little bit about the ending of our novel.

What I did not know was that there was going to be a baby.

Vronsky should have ended before he even started.

What surprises have you had while reading our latest book?

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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Hands and Teeth

Adriana mentioned that she’s counting instances of blushing and flushing in Anna Karenina.

Me?  I’m noticing hands and teeth. Specifically little hands and even teeth.

Whose? Anna’s little hands and Vronsky’s even teeth.

Have you noticed them?

pg. 93  He pressed the little hand she gave him…

pg. 99 …and took her hand in her vigorous little hand.

pg. 105  …to touch her, hold her little hand, kiss it, play with her ring…

pg. 120  …fascinating the graceful, light movements of her little feet and hands

pg. 145   With her little deft hands she opened and shut her little red bag…

pg. 146  …the smooth paper knife in her little hands…

pg. 205  Anna Arkadyevna, with her quick little hand was unfastening the lace of her sleeve…

So I guess Anna has little hands.

Now what about Vronsky’s pearly whites.

pg. 168  …showing his strong, close rows of teeth, when he thought of the helmet.

pg. 188  …laughing and showing his even rows of teeth

pg. 256  …face of disgust, and showing his even teeth.

pg. 262  He laughed gaily, showing his even teeth…

Maybe the Countess sprung for orthodontia?

I mentioned my observations to Jeannette last week.  She wondered what I thought it might mean.  The only thing I could come up with was a lame Little Red Riding Hood reference.

Big Bad Wolf Vronsky holding the tiny hand of Little Red Riding Hood Anna… Little Red:  “Why, Vronsky, what even teeth you have!” Big Bad Vronsky:  “The better to seduce you with, my dear.”

What do you think it means?


Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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Something about Anna

Even the women in our story fall in love with Anna Arkadyevna.

In Part I, chapter twenty Kitty meets the Anna for the first time.

…before Kitty knew where she was she found herself not merely under Anna’s sway, but in love with her, as young girls do fall in love with older and married women.

Anna made quite the impression on Vronsky when they first met on the train in chapter eighteen.  Now Kitty’s smitten.

What is it about Anna that makes everyone fall in love with her?


Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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For the Future

Anna Karenina Part I, chapter 19

Anna is acting as mediator for her brother and sister-in-law.  Oblonsky’s been caught in his relationship with the governess.  Dolly is crushed and wants to break up the family.  Anna has arrived to save the day.

“I fully realize your sufferings, only there is one thing I don’t know; I don’t know… I don’t know how much love there is still in your heart for him.  That you know–whether there is enough for you to be able to forgive him.  If there is, forgive him!”

I hope Anna listened closely to her own words.  Soon.  Very soon.  Her husband will have to consider if there’s enough love in his heart to forgive her.


Posted by on October 2, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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Two Women

Anna Karenina Part I chapter 18

Let’s do a little character comparison, shall we?

In chapter eighteen we meet two women.

First there is a beautiful lady.  She has a “charming face”, “gray eyes, that looked dark from the thick lashes”, and a “faint smile that curved her red lips.”

Vronsky notices this all in passing.  Then we meet the next woman.  She is a “dried-up old lady with black eyes and ringlets“.  She smiles “slightly with her thin lips.”

The first woman is Anna Karenina.  The second is Vronsky’s mother, Countess Vronskaya.

I found it interesting that both women have been or will be unfaithful to their spouses.  In chapter sixteen we learned that the Countess had “during her married life, and still more afterwards, many love affairs notorious in the whole fashionable world.”

What’s Tolstoy trying to tell us?
Beauty and youth are fleeting?
The Countess’s ungraceful aging is the result of her infidelity?
Is this foreshadowing for Anna?

What do you think?


Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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Madame Karenina? Anna Bovary?

I read somewhere that Anna Karenina is like Madame Bovary.

In fact our friend Gina shared that her copy of AK has an intro that includes a passing reference to Flaubert and a quote from the Mme B author about Tolstoy: “What an artist and what a psychologist!”

Have you seen any similarities yet?

Oh, yes.  There’s the infidelity.  I’m not giving anything away by mentioning the affairs.  Even the back of my book does.

Then there’s the missing main character.  I’m seventy-five pages into Anna Karenina and have yet to meet her.  Does that sound familiar?  Quite like Mme B, I’d say.

Any other similarities?


Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary


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Anna Karenina Kick-Off

There still may be a few things left to say about Crime and Punishment, but it’s time to begin our next novel.  Have you started reading?

As Christina, Jeannette, and I compared notes this weekend, we all shared our tips for surviving the latest Russian tome.

Christina:  She’s reading on her kindle and carrying the e-reader at all times.  This allows her to read a page or two when she has a minute here or there.  And that includes reading while brushing her teeth.
Her tip: Use every spare moment you have

Jeannette:  She’s journaling the big stuff.  Have you seen how many chapters there are in this book?  Thirty-four chapters just in Part I.  The chapters aren’t lengthy, but there are times when journaling a short chapter might result in half a sentence.
Her tip: Journal the important events

Me: I’m going to read every day.  I set aside Tolstoy for a few days this week and when I picked it back up I thought, “Oblonsky?  Who’s that?”  I had to go back and reread a few chapters.   Ack!  Those Russian names are out to get me again.  The names in C & P got easier the further into the book I read.  I’m sure the same thing will happen with Anna Karenina.  Plus the added bonus of reading every day is that I’ll be finished with the novel before the movie version arrives in the theater.
My tip: Read every day that you can!  (or cheat and print a list of characters)

It’s a little early to ask each of you to call out your place, so this week share your tips for reading Tolstoy.


Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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