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Wait, what book did you read?

The other night, Pam and Richard and I were talking about Anna Karenina, which they had read and I am reading. Richard was making what seemed to me a very cogent point about the novel, that Anna seems less the focus than are the men surrounding her. Pam was partially agreeing, partially not; then as we moved on to a discussion of the end (yes, I haven’t gotten there yet but COME ON) Richard became increasingly puzzled, and wondered if he hadn’t finished it. Turns out he in fact read War and Peace instead.

But Pam couldn’t help with my question and maybe somebody here can. I’m reading the novel on my Kindle, which makes skimming pretty much impossible, so I don’t know how to go back and check this: it seemed to me that Anna was all restraint and longing gazes with Vronsky, and all of a sudden she’s pregnant. At least, sometimes she’s pregnant, and sometimes she seems to forget. Who’s the father? Am I not reading carefully enough? Was Tolstoi wanting us to read between the lines? Should I stay away from free Kindle books?

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Elizabeth Law says:

    Vronsky is the father, and to tell you the truth, my issue with your free kindle e-book is not that they’ve left something out but that translation makes a hell of a lot of difference with Tolstoy! I personally think you should read the recent Penguin edition–the one translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky. However I can’t answer your most critical question exactly since I haven’t read Anna either, only War and Peace. (why do I know Vronksy is the father? Because I’ve seen two multi-episode adaptations and the paternity was never questioned in either of those.) Tolstoy skipped ahead in the plot in War and Peace many times, so my *guess* is that you are supposed to understand what happened between the two of them and that perhaps you are reading too quickly,

  2. It’s been a while since I read it (college, maybe?) but I never doubted that Vronsky is the father. Perhaps Tolstoy skims over things to avoid dealing with delicate (indelicate?) subject matter. It’s been even longer since I read Tess of the D’Urbervilles, but the main thing I remember about it is that you only knew about Tess’s downfall by the sections titled “Maiden” and “Maiden No More” (or something like that). Similar sensibilities at work?

  3. My problem with Anna Karinina (and I took a LOT of Russian Lit in translation in college led by a Russian speaker who knew Pasternak, so she guided us to the best translations) is that long before I got to the end it was clear she was a trainwreck. Hah! Freudian spoiler there. =I had the same problem with Tess of the D’Urbervilles which I reread recently and Phedra which I saw recently with Helen Mirren as Phaedra.) I wanted to take a frying pan up the side of the head of every single character in the book.


  4. I tried to listen to the audiobook recently in preparation for the film, and six HOURS into it I was dying for *something* to happen. The attention to inconsequential details was maddening. I need to find an abridged version (gasp). The prospect of 24 more hours of tedium made me want to weep.

  5. I happen to be reading this too this summer! (And well into fall, probably.) It’s pretty much implied Vronsky is the father. There is that scene where Anna is crying and repentant immediately after she and Vronsky begin their affair, remember?

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