ANNA read-a-long: Part 2

I read somewhere that Anna Karenina was published in eight parts over several years. Readers read this story over a long period of time (more like a series than one large novel). This is why I started Anna Karenina a few years ago and never finished it – I decided to read it in similar fashion and only made it through parts one and two. I’m really enjoying reading this with everyone and keeping myself on task. Reading a section every 3-4 weeks lets me sneak Anna into my schedule. I must confess that I am reading Anna feverously, finishing part 2 in just a few days. For some reason this gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Part 2 recap provided by

Anna Karenina is steeped in infidelity from its first page—the Oblonsky family struggle to overcome Stiva's selfish act of marital betrayal provides a powerful framework for everything that follows. Yet it is Stiva's sister Anna's grand passion for the dashing Count Vronsky that gives readers the deepest and most realized exploration of adultery and sexuality the novel has to offer. As we progress through Part Two, the lovers' magnetic personalities grow exponentially as their love affair goes from an all-consuming idea to a fully realized reflection of sexual desire, expression and treachery.

Vronsky and Anna become two of the most sexually potent and romantically realized characters in all of 19th-century literature. And in making them so, their creator Tolstoy opens the door on a hugely interesting debate that rages throughout the rest of the novel and on into today: Is what Anna does wrong? Should she be pitied, scorned or congratulated? What is her life worth once she indulges her deepest and most base urges?

Tolstoy also sets up the Anna/Vronsky union in contrast to other, more frivolous adultery—Stiva's affair, Betsy's liaisons, other generalized commentary. Even Vronsky's mother has been known to take lovers. In the circles they run in, it's acceptable to have affairs as long as they don't become too entangled (like a marriage). Vronsky, in having captured the heart of a powerful man's wife, becomes something of a local hero.

Focus on the Character: This is a great feature that focuses on one character for each part.  Part Two focuses On Vronsky's Path to Love

Discussion questions (thanks Oprah):
1. Talk about Anna's friendship with Princess Betsy. Why are they fond of each other, and what important roles do you see them playing for each other?

2. Spend some time discussing the courtship and interactions between Vronsky and Anna. What do you find to be unique about the way they talk to each other? Do you recognize it as something you would call "love?"

3. Do you get the sense that Anna truly feels guilty about the actions she has taken with Vronsky? If not, why do you think?

4. Society—what it means to be a part of high society or operate successfully in society—is discussed at length in Part Two. What do you feel you have discovered about the way Russian society used to work. How does it seem different from your life today?

5. When Kitty tells Varenka at the end of Part Two that she will never marry, do you believe her?