Not that first time around, I promise! As I’ve mentioned, I read Anna Karenina in Russian Lit in college, and if I recall, enjoyed it. However, I have a problem that I inherited from my mom that involves forgetting most of a book’s plot shortly after I finish reading it. Such is the case with Anna Karenina.
While it is probably not necessary to remember the original to enjoy the retelling in What Happened to Anna K., I thought it would be nice. Plus, since I’ve already read Leo Tolstoy’s version, it would only take a little brushing up. Enter Spark Notes. For those unaware, Spark Notes is the free online equivalent of Cliff Notes… ie the stuff I’d read when I didn’t get around to reading the actual books in high school (not that I ever did that, Dad!).
I was going to post the plot overview from Spark Notes here so that you could all reap the benefits of my research, but alas those Spark Notes are damn thorough. The plot overview is quite detailed and quite long for this post. Instead, I’ll share this little bit from the “Key Facts” section:
MAJOR CONFLICT · Anna struggles between her passion for Vronsky and her desire for independence on the one hand, and her marital duty, social convention, and maternal love on the other; Levin struggles to define his own identity and reach an understanding of faith in an alienating and confusing world
RISING ACTION · Anna meets Vronsky in the train station, initiating an acquaintance that grows into adulterous passion and family upheaval; their consummation of the affair leads to Anna’s abandonment of her husband and son. Meanwhile, Kitty rebuffs Levin’s marriage proposal, prompting him to withdraw to his estate in the country and reflect on the meaning of life.
CLIMAX · Anna makes a public appearance at the opera, forcing a confrontation between her desire to live life on her own terms and the hostile opinions of St. Petersburg society, which scorns and rejects her; this episode seals her fate as a social outcast and fallen woman. Meanwhile, Levin’s search for meaning is rewarded by marriage to Kitty, stable family life, and an understanding of faith.
To read much more about the plot, the characters and the themes and motifs (never could remember the difference between the two), you can check out the rest of the Anna Karenina Spark Notes. Or, you know, you could just read the book. It’s good… if I remember correctly?