With Part VII ding in such a fury of action at the train station, I was surprised to find a whole two months had passed in the turning of a page. Part VIII skips the weeks following Anna’s death, and we meet our characters as they attempt to move on from the tragedy.
Vronsky is off to war with the Turks, and Levin’s brother Sergei Ivanovich praises his courage and speaks much of “the people’s” desire to help their “Slavic brothers.” Meanwhile Levin is one of the few doubters that (a) this is really what the people of Russia want, and (b) even is if is what they want – is it the right thing to do. Even Vronsky admits he is not particularly interested in the war itself, but has nothing more to live for, so might as well throw his life away on the battlefield.
The discussion of the war and the reasons to be involved is among the most interesting pieces of social commentary in the novel. Tolstoy uses these chapters to air his own pacifist views (and when first submitted for publication, when the Russo-Turkish war was still waging, the manuscript was rejected and had to be softened and resubmitted twice.)
Levin, having become so anxious about his lack of faith and the possible consequences for his son, is questioning spirituality with such fervor he becomes almost suicidal – until a chance conversation convinces him that he is and has always lived for the greater good, which is what Christianity is all about.
And with that (Part VIII was by far the shortest part of the book) I have finished reading Anna Karenina. Was it as fabulous as I hoped? Unfortunately, no. Would I recommend it? Absolutely. It is not fast-moving or adventurous, but Tolstoy has a gift for creating characters and getting to the heart of human emotion and passion. If you have the patience to get through its 800+ pages, Anna Karenina is unlike any book you have ever read.
I feel like I ought to be able to say more. This is Anna Karenina. This is classic literature. All I can come up with is “unlike any book you have ever read.” Maybe in time I will write a summary post, but having already written seven other “reviews” on the novel, I am not sure what else I can add.