Anna Karenina by Russian author Leo Tolstoy was first published in its complete form in 1878 after having been published in installments between 1875 and 1877. Believed by many critics to be among the the greatest novels ever written, it is a sweeping and tragic novel that delves into the complexities of love, morality, and social norms in 19th-century Imperial Russia—as well as the blessings of family life, and the philosophical value of farming.

The plot describes a hopeless triangle centered around the titular character, Anna Karenina, a married woman who becomes entangled in a passionate affair with the affluent Count Vronsky. The setting depicts the opulent society of imperial Russia, providing a backdrop for the characters’ moral dilemmas and personal struggles. Tolstoy masterfully weaves together multiple storylines, intertwining the fate of Anna with other characters, such as the idealistic Levin and his love interest Kitty. 

Anna Karenina offers a window into the cultural and political landscape of Russia during a period of significant social upheaval. The novel reflects the tensions between the aristocracy and the emerging middle class, as well as the clash between traditional values and the changing dynamics of Russian society. Anna Karenina has been adapted into numerous films, plays, and television series, including a 2012 version starring Keira Knightley as Anna.

Read the full book summary, an in-depth character analysis of Count Vronsky, and explanations of important quotes from Anna Karenina.

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