Bookish Adaptations: Anna Karenina

I think I am going to begin reviewing book adaptations on the main basis of how well they stuck with the books because let’s be honest: a truly satisfying adaptation for readers is a hard task to execute.

I read Anna Karenina recently, and I decided to check out the 2012 film adaptation (mostly because of Keira Knightley if I am being honest), which was directed by Joe Wright.

Things I Liked:

  • the directing was exceptional. I think the way that the whole production mirrored the way a stage production captures the dreamy way in which Tolstoy wrote this novel. Shots like Karenin sitting alone on an empty stage, in an empty theatre are surreal and hauntingly beautiful.
  • the way Russian high society was depicted. At times, actors seemed like nothing more than machine parts, or gossiping, obsessed freaks, and I think this nicely captures the way in which Tolstoy characterized and used satire.
  • the acting. Keira Knightley and Aaron-Taylor Johnson had amazing chemistry, and Jude Law made a convincing Karenin.
  • the costuming. The costumes were exquisite and so revealing about each of the characters. I am not sure how historically accurate they were but they did so much for the plot of the movie that I was absolutely taken.
  • the cinematography. The whole movie is aesthetically pleasing, and done quite beautifully. The transitions are probably some of the best that I’ve ever seen.

Things I did not like:

  • omitted scenes. Yes, I understand it’s a long novel but so much was missed and what was missed usually included Levin’s and Kitty’s storyline which is so important in the novel, but had to be treated as a side plot in order to keep the movie at a reasonable length
    • bonus annoyance: you know Tolstoy’s famous scene of Levin cutting wheat? it’s like five seconds long in the movie.
  • Levin. Levin is such a hard character to translate into physical adaptations, and this is because the man is highly introspective that the only way to communicate his inner dialog, which is a lot of the book, would be through monologues or voice overs. Neither of these were employed in the movie, and it made Levin’s character significantly less interesting. And, when Levin came to his epiphany in the movie, it would have been lost by everyone who hadn’t read the book because it was the only time it was mentioned in the movie, so a lot of his personal growth got lost.
  • love was the main focus of the movie. I don’t think love/jealousy was necessarily the breaking point of certain characters in the novel, although it was made out to be in the movie. There are so many other themes and complex motifs in the novel that either would not have translated well or that the directors and producers just did not attempt with this movie.

Have you seen the movie? What do you think?

book review, classics

Review: Anna Karenina

Reason could not discover love for the other, because it’s unreasonable.

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

GENRE: Classic

BOOK FORMAT: physical, paperback

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Anna Karenina is the subject of a high-society scandal when she leaves her husband, Alexei Alexandrovich for Count Vronsky. Her husband is a respected, high-ranking bureaucrat and her new affair is a dashing, young, womanizing army officer. Katerina also pines after Vronsky, thinking that after he showed some interest in her that they would live happily together. This comes as news to Levin, a wealthy farmer who has only ever had eyes for Katerina. As Anna succumbs more and more to Vronksy’s courting, she has a choice to make: follow her passion and fall from society’s graces and leave her son behind, or stay unhappily married but respected? The consequences of her choice manages to touch on the rest of the cast of characters in this novel.

THOUGHTS: I thought, going into this novel, that I knew how it would go and who I would sympathize with. But the beautiful thing about Tolstoy is that he writes complex characters, so that you must reprimand, empathize, and relate to each of them. There are all the elements of any human life, vibrating off the page in this novel: politics, religion, philosophy, morals, family, sex, lust, parenting, childhood, and everything in between.

I adored Tolstoy’s writing style, though this was definitely a book I had to read at the same time as other books. I could only take chunks of it as a time because of its density, but I would definitely consider rereading all 800 pages of it again. Tolstoy’s writing style is so idiosyncratic and makes me feel like I am viewing the world through a slanted mirror. I know that the events are not quite reality, but they reflect a lot of the world around me pretty accurately, despite the fact that I do not live in nineteenth century Russia.

If you are like me and you prefer novels that are character-driven, then this book is for you. It is narrated from several perspectives of many characters, despite the title of the book. You get to watch the silly Kitty mature, the hopeless romantic Levin become more grounded, and other  more “flawless” characters absolutely deteriorate. One gets to experience all the highs and lows of Russian aristocratic society, which is so beautifully critiqued in this work. And the passages are beautifully written, and written in such a way that at several points you have to put down the book and ponder what it is asking you to believe about the human condition.

I gave this book a 4.5/5 stars just because I am not a mature enough reader to truly appreciate each and every passage- some of the passages about politics bored me (and I study politics!) but then again, they also bored the narrator so maybe that was the intention? But next summer, I feel confident enough in my admiration of this writing style to try and maybe tackle Tolstoy’s more famous work War and Peace.


Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Fancasts

I’m gonna try the Top 5 Wednesday meme this week, particularly cause I was interested in this topic. This week’s topic is top five favorite fancasts, or actors that I would like to play my favorite literary characters (and yes they’re all women).

  • Anne Shirley- Mary Kate Wiles


So if you are at familiar with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and YouTube in general, you know Mary Kate Wiles does an excellent job as a modern Lydia. She also did a short little stint as Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables) for the series Kissing in the Rain and you guys, she was perfect. She’d make a perfect Anne in a longer adaptation.

  • Jane Eyre- Elizabeth Moss


I’m not too big of a fan of any of the Jane Eyre adaptations out there, and I feel as though Elizabeth Moss could do well as Jane. She has played several strong characters (Peggy in Mad Men, anyone?), but she has the kind of quiet strength that Jane Eyre requires.

  • Jo March- Katie Stevens


I have been binge watching The Bold Type recently, and I swear Katie would be a perfect Jo. Her character on The Bold Type is already a fierce, A-type kind of person and I can totally picture Katie as the headstrong, intellectual force of nature that is Jo March.

  • Anna Karenina- Keira Knightley


Okay I know this is cheating because Keira did play Anna in the movie version (which I have not yet seen). But when I was reading through Anna Karenina, the only person that I could picture was Keira Knightley. With dark, curly, hair and a face that is naturally sweet and gorgeous, Keira matches every description Tolstoy throws at you of Anna Karenina.

  • Elinor Dashwood- Shailene Woodley


I kinda struggled with this casting. I feel like Shailene could do well as the quiet, proper Elinor but it is hard to tell whether an actor can do period acting unless they have been in a period film already. And let’s face it- most famous American actresses haven’t yet been in a Jane Austen-era film yet.

What are some of your dreamcasts?


reading goals, to be read

September TBR

Summer is at a close…which means that the time period in which I am able to get most of my reading done is also at a close. The month of September brings new beginnings for me…I’m starting not just one but two (TWO!) internships and I am delving back into the life of a full-time student. So understandably, this TBR is not going to be that ambitious.

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy


I definitely want to get through this book before school starts, because it is tremendously long and I honestly don’t think I can commit to such a dense read during the school year. I am currently about halfway through and am really ejoying this one.

  • The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler


I’ve heard so many good things about this book and I am so psyched to read it cause it seems like a cute, fun read and also I adore Jane Austen. I’ve only read three out of her six novels so far, but those three are among my all-time favorite books.

  • If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo


I’m trying to read more diversely and I have yet to read a book with a transgender main character in it. I honestly think YA is a great genre to try and introduce more diverse characters to the larger world of literature in. I am excited to see what Meredith Russo has done, especially as this is an own-voices novel. (BTW: the model on the cover is a transgender model. Well done, publishers!)

  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


This is a novel with Lithuanian characters set in the Soviet Union, cause this girl is all about the historically accurate fiction. This book is about a family that gets deported to Siberia by Soviet police and the struggles they face there while the father of the family is sent to a labor camp. As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew that I had to read it!

  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah


My friend has been begging me to read this, and as I am a sucker for historical fiction novels, I caved. I also made this particular friend read All The Light We Cannot See with me, so I guess fair is fair right? But her begging aside, I am always down for a well written book set in WW2.

  • Lighter than My Shadow by Katie Green


Yet another YA book on this list, and a diverse, mental-health focused book at that! This is supposed to be a graphic novel concerning issues like eating disorders and abuse. I received this book from NetGalley and it comes out October 3rd, but I’ve already heard so many good things so I’m sure this is going to be a fantastic read.