This novel is essentially about family, happiness and society. Tolstoy gives us the best characters anyone could ever ask for, and all we’re meant to do is observe and live with them for a while.
Although named after a main character, this novel is about 3 different couples (Alexi & Anna, Stepan & Dolly, and Levin & Kitty) and an interloper couple in Anna and Count Vronsky.
In the beginning we see Anna is married to the ambitious proper Alexi, and they have a son together. Anna is somewhat content in her marriage until she meets the charming Count Vronsky in a train station and suddenly feels bored with her husband and married life, as she begins to see the possibility of happiness in a different life.
Stepan is Anna’s brother and is married to Dolly, who becomes extremely upset when she discovers her husband has been having multiple affairs. Anna calms Dolly and tells her all men cheat and that he loves her and she must forgive him. So she does. Easy peasy, moving on!
Then we have Levin, the most interesting character in my opinion, whom I believe was fashioned after Tolstoy himself. Levin proposes to Kitty who turns him down because she thinks she can do better! He is not handsome nor charming, and is socially awkward. He then moves to the countryside where he decides to give simple life a go and ponders agriculture and other ideas about community, Russian society and in the end, religion. Later on he reunites with Kitty who finally agrees to marry him and start a family with him in the quiet country life away from pretentious society.
The novel plays with the idea of the consequences of seeking individual happiness versus finding contentment and happiness by being part of the whole. Tolstoy is telling us that society is both our doom and our savior, and we should find happiness in the smaller things by being useful to our societies.
All in all, I absolutely fell in love with this novel and would recommend it to everyone, especially because it’s style and language are easier when compared to War and Peace.