I've finally met Anna Karenina. Invited to Moscow from her home in Petersburg by her brother, Stepan, she seemed to be there to work a little damage control. Remember Stepan's affair with the French governess? Her journey by train was spent by passing time with Count Vronsky's mother, also traveling to Moscow to visit her son. I have a feeling the train scene is going to be very telling in a couple of ways--not only is it the fatal meeting between Anna and Vronsky, but perhaps a view of Vronsky's personality.
As Vronksy enters the train carriage to collect his mother he catches sight of a lady belonging to high society and does a double take.
"...he felt the need to glance at her once more--not because she was very beautiful, not because of the elegance and modest grace that could be seen in her whole figure, but because there was something especially gentle and tender in the expression of her sweet-looking face as she stepped past him. As he looked back, she also turned her head. Her shining grey eyes, which seemed dark because their thick lashes, rested amiably and attentively on his face, as if she recognized him, and at once wandered over the approaching crowd as though looking for someone. In that brief glance Vronsky had time to notice the restrained animation that played over her face and fluttered between her shining eyes and barely noticeable smile that curved her red lips. It was as if a surplus of something so overflowed her being that it expressed itself beyond her will, now in the brightness of her glance, now in her smile. She deliberately extinguished the light in her eyes, but it shone against her will in barely a noticeable smile."
Have they met before? He is certainly very taken with her.
Although Vronsky is a charming and very dashing man, I did wonder about his feelings towards his mother.
"In his soul he did not respect her and, without being aware of it, did not love her, though by the notions of the circle in which he lived, by his upbringing, he could not imagine to himself any other relation to his mother than one obedient and deferential in the highest degree, and the more outwardly obedient and deferential he was, the less he respected and loved her in his soul."
Somehow I've always thought you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat their mother, but I think I don't have the whole story yet, so I'll reserve judgment for later. Besides, he is deferential and obedient, but what other feelings is he suppressing.
I think Levin is going to turn out to be a very interesting character. I feel for him. Nowhere near as dashing and attractive as Vronsky, I have a feeling he is going to be far more steadfast. He seems quite intelligent and caring. He has two brothers, one very bourgeois and the other living in penurious conditions and committed to the cause of the worker. Levin fits in somewhere in between. After being refused by Kitty, he returns to the countryside where he lives and farms. But has Kitty done the right thing? At a ball she is left to stand out alone, almost a wallflower until her hostess rescues her, as Vronsky invites Anna Karenina to dance.
I'm just nearing the end of part one (there are eight parts in total). I don't think I've given anything of importance away as characters are still being introduced and the stage is still being set, but I promise to warn of any possible spoilers in my future posts. And I am being very careful not to give too many details away. I hope these posts don't become too boring for those who haven't read the book--perhaps I'll limit them as I go, but they are almost more for me to keep track of characters and action in the plot--a virtual reading journal.
I wouldn't mind to read some criticism along with the text, but I have a feeling anything I pick up is going to give the story away, so I will wait until the end. I did find a list of questions here, but again they give away plot so beware of reading them ahead of time. If anyone knows of anything that can be read alongside the book (or after as well), please do share as I any additional insight into the story is always welcome.
So far I am finding the story quite easy to get into, and if I was devoting all my reading time to it I think I could make fast progress indeed. But it's kind of nice taking it slow and thinking about it along the way, too.
So, now I am wondering about Anna's husband, Alexei, and just how Anna and Vronsky hook up. Read on.