Thursday, 14 April 2011

Amy and Tolstoi

I think it’s time I give a little review on a couple of books I’ve read recently. I know I’ve never done this before, but I feel these two deserve a mention!
The first one was Reuben Sachs by Amy Levy. I’m including this one because a couple of you were interested to hear what I thought of it. I read this in February/ early March, so it’s not exactly fresh in my mind. I thought it was an enjoyable read and made me chuckle a couple of times. You have to read of bit of background to really get it (info provided by Persephone and Wikipedia was plenty by the way, no need for serious research!), and having some basic knowledge of Jewish culture might help as well. Anyway, I thought it was an easy read, a fast one too, which was nice for me as I was in between big books. The storyline? Well I don’t want to give anything away, but it’ll surprise you right until the end. All in all, a pleasant read, nothing too strenuous for the mind, but really quite enjoyable.

The second book I’d like to talk about is Tolstoi’s Anna Karenina. I’ve just finished this (literally yesterday during my lunch break!) and unfortunately I have mixed feelings about it. First of all, I was a little put off at first because it resembles a brick. 816 pages, not that anyone’s counting… and a page at the start listing out all the different characters and how you should pronounce their names properly. That totally freaked me out, I thought I’d have to start drawing family trees or something (this has been done during my school days!).

But actually, I was pleasantly surprised by the book. The translation I read was really very good. I was worried the language might be a bit old fashioned, but not at all, it was really enjoyable. Characters were introduced slowly, which meant you had time to get your head around who’s who, and how people are related. The book is divided into 8 Books too, each sub-divided into smaller chapters (at most 4 pages long), which made reading this on the train very practical indeed.

In the end, I must say I really enjoyed reading this book, it was really interesting and very different from anything I’ve read before. I did get lost occasionally in discussions about agriculture, but overall, it gets a thumbs up. Not two though, because I wasn’t really taken by the ending. Didn’t really do it for me. I’d preferred it if Tolstoi had carried on focusing on the main plot. But then who am I to criticise Tolstoi?!!

So there, my last two books. What’s next? I’m not sure really, maybe one of the two Persephone books I bought at the same time as Ruben Sachs, maybe a little bit of a reading break and some train crafting instead!


The Girl said...

Ooh that's interesting, I've always been put off Anna Karenina because of the size of it but maybe I need to stop being scared!

Lucy said...

Well done you for reading AK! I'm having a bitof a reading lull at the mo, just going through a few easy chick lits, maybe something a bit more thought provoking next!

Anonymous said...

I went through a Russian stage when I was in my twenties and read Tolstoy to Dostoyevsky via Solzhenitsyn. I inhaled them and hoovered my way through (and yes I remember those rather scary character lists complete with several alternative names for each character). Several decades later I have forgotten many of them. Perhaps it is time for a revisit. I am the sad kind of person who perfers a brick for a book (I think I probably feel I am getting more read for my money!)

Jennifer said...

I was in the hospital for two months when I was pregnant with the babe and Anna Karenina was one of the audiobooks I listened too. I was too weak to hold books so I listened to them instead and at 40 hours of listening time, this one book helped pass some time. Overall I enjoyed it too, but I was ready for the train incident as I had gotten really tired of the whining, perhaps it was my mood and circumstance. Glad you made it through it, I think I would have had trouble with the names and following along too if I couldn't hear the different voices portraying the characers.