Anyone read Anna Karenina by Tolstoy? No, mean neither. But I did watch a TV adaptation this weekend; thankfully some redeeming feature of Virgin Media in its ‘On Demand’ feature! I enjoy a good love story, like any girl, but what really makes it for me is when it is a tragedy.
If you intend on reading the above novel and do not wish it to be ruined forever, please close the browser NOW! Otherwise, as you were!
I think now I will, at some point, give Tolstoy a go. I have always been intimidated by Russian literature, despite its gravitas. They seem overly complicated, with too many names and places. I am the girl who can’t get through Lord of the Rings because of the ridiculous amount of pointless, unpronounceable names, so what chance have I with Tolstoy?! The fact that I have watched quite a nice, pretty version with the lovely Sean Bean, means that the essence of the story is set, therefore giving me a hook on which to hang onto as I drag myself through the pages.
It is a tragic love story that I know I will relish reading. Anna, mother and wife and very unhappy, falls deeply in love with the charismatic Sean Bean aka Vronsky. After becoming pregnant with his child, and subsequently loosing it, she is shunned by her husband allowing her to run away to the country with her love. But, when Karenin fails to grant his wife the divorce she so desperately needs, she falls into a deep depression. Her suspicions work overtime as she suspects her deeply devoted Vronsky of all manner of things. Unable to cope with her sorrow, Anna ends her life by throwing herself under a train! Vronsky, unable to cope with his own sorrow, aims to return to the Russian army (please note, this synopsis is not strictly of the book, but of the adaptation).
Now, as I understand, this is obviously the main thread of the novel, but it is not the only thread. So again, suggesting itself as a novel I can get on board with.
My absolute favourite book in the whole world is some what of a cliché. But it is the ultimate in tragic, dark love stories; Wuthering Heights. I think this was the first time I came across a love story which defied convention, that was twisted and sinister, and ultimately ended (well in this case, I guess, started) with death, tearing apart the two lovers. It is an old story dreamt from Romeo and Juliet, Echo and Narcissus and other various, more ancient tales.
So, why are these tales of broken love so appealing? Why does tragedy and true sadness intrigue me so? I’m not sure. It does worry me on occasions. I guess, its the emotion they cause and provoke. Happy stories are all well and good, but few of them make you feel truly alive. A sorrowful story, filled with desperation and unsolvable problems really hit a nerve. They spark emotions in us, I would hope, we don’t feel everyday in our lives. Feelings that strike the empathy and sympathy within us, that force us to admit the actions we would follow if we were in that situation, that make us realise just how small and meaningless our lives can be. But in the same instance, feelings that make you realise what you have got, that make you thankful for your life without heartbreak and tragedy, feelings that make every goosebump on your flesh register a strong emotion.
I guess what I am saying is, real life should be content and warm and happy. But our being demands the dark side to be satisfied. So, be satisfied. I drink my fill of tragic stories and live every page of them in order to keep the real shadows from my door. Besides, books with just one happy ending, without the aspirations of hope at their end, are pretty shallow and dull. We are complex creatures, we need all the depths of our nature to be catered for. So go ahead, feel free to indulge the darkness – just don’t go throwing yourself under a train!