Thank Goodness That’s Over

On the 14 April of this year, I set myself 108 challenges. I never really completed all of them – in fact, I didn’t even think of enough challenges to reach the 108. However, one of the challenges that I did set myself was to read Anna Karenina. Over recent years I have been trying to read some of the ‘classics’ that get thrown into intellectual conversations and that I feel I should know about. Anna Karenina was one of those and the sheer size of the tome just added another impressive aspect to the challenge.  So one day in April, I started reading it.



At 1am this morning as I tried to read myself to sleep, I finished it. The sheer happiness of having finally read the last words of Tolstoy’s book almost made me jump out of bed and head out into Manchester to celebrate. I wish I could say that I was profoundly moved by the ending and that I feel like I have learnt from the literary expertise of the great Russian writer. But I would be lying. I thoroughly enjoyed the first third of the book – it was like a soap opera with characters having affairs, falling in and out of love and bitching about each other. But then it turned into a long story about Russian farming practices and aristocracy. New characters randomly appeared (or perhaps they had been mentioned before but their very similar names made them hard to distinguish) and the general flow of the book changed from being a little bit racy to just plain dull. I’m probably not supposed to say that about this book. I am supposed to say that it was profound and skilful and I wish I could write like that. But the one thing that I did learn from reading it was: Less is more.

I have a strangely vivid memory of watching an episode of Oprah during my university years and Anna Karenina was the book for that month’s Oprah’s BookClub. Oprah openly admitted that she hadn’t been able to finish it. Hence my determination to at least read the book to the last page. Oprah may be richer and more popular than me, but I read Anna Karenina to the end and she didn’t. WIN.

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