Books · Reading Challenge

Read The Year: February

“Obsessive Love”

Full disclosure: I have yet to finish Anna Karenina. This should not be taken as a criticism – it’s a result of my starting late, reading less than usual, and the style of the novel, which encourages a slow reading pace and close attention.

I knew very little about the novel going in: I knew it involved an affair between Anna and Vronsky, and was an examination of marriage and love, but there is also a secondary plot, interrelated with the first, about Levin, a friend of Anna’s brother, and Kitty, related to Anna by marriage (and a former flirtation of Vronsky’s) which examines the theme from a different angle.img_8727

Having read War and Peace a few years back, I remembered that Tolstoy can be quite wordy, but I had forgotten his talent for delineating characters. In some respects his knack resembles that of Elizabeth Gaskell (see last month’s post), in showing faults, and foibles, as well as the good, but his eye for character errs more toward the satirical than the sympathetic.

I’m about halfway through, and while I’m aware that things don’t end well for Anna, I’m allowing myself to hope a little for Levin and Kitty.

Related Reading

Madame Bovary seemed like a suitable accompaniment to Anna Karenina, but my slow pace meant I never got to it. However, Napoleon the Great, which I listened to on Audible, tied in more than I expected. The Napoleonic era was much earlier than Anna Karenina , which is set in the 1870s, but it was a time that fundamentally reshaped Europe, and the reforms which resulted from Alexander’s wars with Napoleon underpin the concerns of Tolstoy’s characters. In its own right Napoleon the Great is a fantastic book, which gave me a new perspective on both the man and his actions.

Other Reading

I’ve not read many adult books this month, partly because it’s been a short month, partly because the books I was concentrating on are so long.


I borrowed some Hulk comics through my Amazon Prime membership. I’ve never bothered to buy any of the Planet Hulk tie-ins, but I wanted to check them out because Thor: Ragnarok used some of the Hulk material. They’re interesting from that perspective, but I’m glad I didn’t buy them, as I don’t think I’d read them again.


Back in January, I ordered a book about Portuguese calçada (the mosaic-style, cobbled paving that is widely used in Portuguese cities). Calçada Portuguesa is a photograph book, but does briefly cover the history of calçada (which is of more recent provenance than I imagined, given its ubiquity in Portugal), and shows the spread the art form to former Portuguese territories worldwide. It’s also trilingual: Portuguese, English, and Chinese (I assume they mean Mandarin), which is a nice touch.

Running Total

Books Read: 12

Currently Reading: 8


Since I still have half of Anna Karenina to read, my March book needs to be short. The theme is ‘Read a book about a woman you hadn’t previously heard of’. I was planning to read a biography of Christine de Pizan, but have settled on the shorter The Diary of Lady Murasaki.