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Anna Karenina

By: Leo Tolstoy
Narrated by: Maggie Gyllenhaal
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Summary

Winner: Audible's Best of 2016 - Classic

"Anna Karenina is one of my favorite books. But when I agreed to read it for Audible, I had no idea how much work it would be, how intense it would be, and how deeply I would fall in love with it. There were places where I thought 'if I don't give Alexey Alexandrovitch the respect that he deserves in my reading of this scene, a critical part of the book will be ruined. If I don't give EVERYONE the utmost respect and understanding, I'm not doing justice to this brilliantly compassionate book.' But at the same time, I also wanted to have a light touch in the way I played the different characters, so that the magnificence of the novel could shine through. I feel like performing this novel is one of the major accomplishments of my work life - it was so challenging and so deep, a real pleasure." (Narrator Maggie Gyllenhaal)

Leo Tolstoy's classic story of doomed love is one of the most admired novels in world literature. Generations of readers have been enthralled by his magnificent heroine, the unhappily married Anna Karenina, and her tragic affair with dashing Count Vronsky. Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight, The Honourable Woman) cites Tolstoy's epic as one of her favorite books of all time, and her love for the literature permeates her performance. Anna Karenina is a masterpiece not only because of the unforgettable woman at its core and the stark drama of her fate but also because it explores and illuminates the deepest questions about how to live a fulfilled life.

Public Domain (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

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What listeners say about Anna Karenina

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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a dissapointment

I was really hoping for a riveting listen after reading audibles hype of this performance by Maggie Gyllenhall.
I fancied listening to another classic after becoming bored with crime and thriller reads that all began to sound the same.
My last classic listen was The Woman in White which I thoroughly enjoyed and had high hopes for the praise given to Gyllenhalls interpretation of this classic novel.
I d love to say I made it past chapter 12 but for me it just turned into one long sentence. It was read but not with any gusto or giving any difference to the characters. I found it a woefully dull rendition and returned it.

38 people found this helpful

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A book for reading

After listening to a few books, I realise that there are books that a great to listen to and books that are better to read (another example of one not to listen to Mrs Dalloway) because the language is so dense. Ci think this is one of those. I struggled to remember who the different names belonged to, and to keep attention to the plot. Tolstoy is an accomplished writer for sure, but I was thinking get to the point.

I don't think Maggie Gyllenhaal was the right reader, I found her a little monotonous and failed to keep my attention.
There was a lot I enjoyed about the book, but I did feel that Anna Karenina needed to get a grip and lacked empathy for her as a character at times.

35 people found this helpful

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I loved this book and the narrator

I loved everything about this. The story is amazing, I love the way Tolstoy seems to see the world from all the characters points of view and sympathise with all of them. At first I found it odd that Maggie Gyllenhall doesn't put on accents for the different characters - she just reads them all in her voice - but after a while I liked it and it has the advantage that she doesn't shape your perspective on the character; whereas other narrators can really shape how you see a character, e.g. by reading them in a shrill or silly voice. Thank you Maggie for a beautiful performance that will stay with me.

12 people found this helpful

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Flat narration of complex novel

Intersecting stories woven round doomed love affair but disappointingly passionless narration scattered with irritating mispronounciations

9 people found this helpful

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Anna Karenina meets Dalas

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Better translation from the original in English rather than American english. you just don't get the sense of aristocracy without an upper class accent !

What will your next listen be?

Just started the Silk Road.

How could the performance have been better?

See comments above

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Yes , I was able to turn it off.

Any additional comments?

Dissapointed, I had been looking forward to listening to this book, but after thirty chaptors it still hadn't improved so turned it off!

8 people found this helpful

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So long

The OCD in me made me finish this even though it was nearly 40 hours. Maggie is cool and I like her so much I picked this book but even she can not make pages and pages on farming methods interesting and her French pronunciation is jarring.

3 people found this helpful

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the narrator misses instructio on French an German

she really misses the german and french rightfully. it mess the whole thing disgracefully unpleasant.

3 people found this helpful

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Absolutely fantastic book.

I was in two minds about this book and reader due to previous reviews but bought it anyway. I am so glad I did. The story is wonderful and Maggie Gyllenhaal is in my opinion the best choice of reader. Her voice flowed through the book. I was in every room, every house with each character. It was like standing at the edge of the room listening in.32hrs is nothing for this kind of book. I was devastated when it ended. I will listen to this book many times. My next buy will be War and Peace. Can't wait.

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent reading of classic novel

The reading is very well done, the story justly famous, the narrator distinguishes well between the characters and is particularly on form in conveying the pathos of Anna herself, the reality of love's imagined failure crossing into the romantic mania for grand statement and that burden of loss and guilt that remains for the survivor. For some British listeners the accent might become too severe but I didn't find it so. So if you want the feminine take this is to be recommended, if you prefer the male voice then the Horovitch version is also excellent.

2 people found this helpful

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Amazing narration of classic

Maggie Gyllenhaal's performance is absolutely perfect, her voice is exquisite and fits the story so well.
The book is of course an absolute classic. It is very lengthy though and goes into great detail about a lot of characters, so only take it on if you know you can invest enough time at once.
Overall, loved it.

2 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for Charles B
  • Charles B
  • 27-08-18

Need to Disclose and Highlight Name of Translator

If you disclosed Constance Garnett as the translator of this version of Anna Karenina, where did you do so? I didn't catch it. This is important information that needs to be highlighted. Vladimir Nabokov, a master of the Russian and English languages, thought that Garnett's translation was a "complete disaster." Whether Nabokov was right or not, there certainly is a real controversy about the translation.

I beg you, in the future please disclose the translator's name routinely, and as prominently as the name of the author. Thank you.

647 people found this helpful

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  • L. Kerr
  • 22-07-16

Top Notch Performance

I've listened to several audiobook recordings of this classic novel. This one may be the best.

The narrator is a famous American actress who obviously devoted a lot of time and effort. I admire her because audiobook narrators are famously underpaid. I'm sure she didn't do this just for the money. You can tell she loves this story, which in my opinion is the greatest love story in novel form.

One of the unique aspects of this version is that most of the other narrators are British. This narrator has a naturally clear and seamless American delivery. It caused me to pick up subtleties that I didn't feel listening to the Brits (though I thoroughly enjoyed them).

This audiobook is worth your money. I plan to re-listen to it in a few months.

A note on this translation:

This is the famous Constance Garnett translation, which, for many years, was the gold standard and the one beloved by so many great writers such as Faulkner and Hemmingway. There are several recent translations, most of which I've read. This and all translations are very good. I wish there were audiobook versions of the recent translations, but I understand that Audible and other recording companies probably can't afford to pay the translators so they use this and other old translations whose copyrights have expired. This is another reason why this narrator has done such an admirable job. Her performance makes this version, which was written in 1901, sound relevant and fresh.

256 people found this helpful

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  • K. Johnson
  • 11-08-18

Maggie Gyllenhaal is exquisite perfection

I am an avid audiobooks listener and seldom do I write a review, but my experience needs to be shared. Maggie Gyllenhaal delivers a flawless - I mean flawless - performance of this, at times, burdensome story. Look, I knew this was a long book before I started, and I was in it for the long haul when Maggie began narrating. She does more than narrate. She performs the piece and makes it dance. The inflection and sharpness of her pronunciation of the French and Russian phrasing is flawless. You will enjoy this classic because she delivers it with exquisite perfection.

211 people found this helpful

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  • J. Stirling
  • 02-08-16

Not to be rushed but to be savored

This is not the dull endless drama I read in college. Maggie Gyllenhaal brings every word to life. Tolstoy in spite my youthful opinion many years ago, created characters that are exciting, brilliant, often frustrating, selfish, funny and in many ways just like our own family members. I didn't want it to be over and I know I will listen to this again. Right now I wish I could talk to other readers to share all the deep thoughts and feelings this book awakens.

211 people found this helpful

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  • Jonathan Roa
  • 05-03-20

Buy a Different Version!!

Maggie Gyllenhall does not do good as a narrator or voice actor, which is sad because she is a great actress. But she only uses 1 tone for a man, and 1 tone for a women, and it is soo difficult to tell when she transitions from narrations to dialogue. I heard this book is one of the greatest works of English literature, and the plot 9 hours in is good, but with Maggie's narration I can't tell which characters are doing what and have to constantly rewind to listen again. Not to mention she doesn't try to add emotion to the dialogue. I've listened to tons of books, and the voice actor/narrator can make all the difference. At the end of the day I'm getting a different version, because I simply cannot enjoy the book at this point.

96 people found this helpful

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  • Stevon
  • 16-01-17

excellent classic, the only way to describe it

First time author for me. If you are like me, every once in a while it's a good change of pace to take on a long classic. You have to be in the right frame of mind but something clicks about a story and you go for it. For me, in this instance, it was narrator Maggie Gyllenhaal the actress. And, she did a great job. But in researching the story while listening I learned that this being a classic, Audible has seven full length versions of this audiobook, all with different narrators. How do you know which one to listen to? There are even two Russian version, one Italian, one Spanish plus abridged versions. I guess this is what happens when a book is a true classic.

At times it seemed that the title of the book is a misnomer. Yes, the doomed love story of Anna is central to the story but there is much more to it. There is the farmer Levin who is questioning his faith the entire story, trying to decide if he's a Believer or Unbeliever. But it's also a time piece of Russian history. Tolstoy wrote this in the 1870's and writes about many facets of Russian life at the time. The Serfs of Russia, most of the people, had been freed from serfdom which was basically slavery. They were now called peasants and had to be paid a wage for their work. Under serfdom Russian agriculture had been a profitable venture for the elite of Russian but now with freedom productivity had gone down and profitability was out the window. The term communism was already being used so the coming revolution wasn't something that dropped onto Russia out of the sky. There was much discussion on the equitable distribution of all things for the good of the people. In many ways these issues still exist in current day Russia.

Tolstoy himself was born into the aristocracy of Russia. Since he touched on so many subjects you had to wonder if he wasn't one of those questioning the status quo. He apparently embraced religion and spirituality later in life and it seemed he may have been espousing his questions and views on the subject a he devotes quite a bit of the story to this topic.

All in all, this is a great classic. When the time is right take the challenge and good luck on deciding which narrator to listen to. I don't know that I have a second listening in me just to try out a second narrator. But it is interesting to see how different narrators can put a different perspective on a story.

95 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Margaret
  • 06-08-16

Can't agree about Gyllenhaal

Wow! I hate to argue with sincere and informative reviews. I've always enjoyed Maggie Gyllenhaal as an actor and bought this book the day it was available. I expected and wanted to love it! And yet, partly because of the terribly outdated translation (1910), but mostly because of Gyllenhaal's pronunciation and diction, I just couldn't. Likely I didn't notice this in her acting since I've only seen her play a modern American and, let's face it, we don't speak very well. But for Tolstoy? No.

As a *performance*, only in terms of acting a character or emotion, Gyllenhaal's was good. She used variety and tone that gave distinctive life to characters and scenes very well (by no means consistently, though). That wasn't the problem. However, I wondered what the producer was thinking when s/he let her mispronounce words like "insuperable" and "appurtenances". Gyllenhaal didn't use the posh but universal (for that class and time) British and European Ma-MA and Pa-PA, but rather the Americanisms "Momma" and "Poppa" instead. In fact, Gyllenhaal was allowed to use a sloppy accent throughout: wanna, gunna, whaddaya, and so on.

Then there was her hard-to-describe treatment of certain syllables--I'm no linguist, but I'm sure there's a word for it--a swallowing of letters that ought to be distinct. This is an awful example, but I didn't take notes and can't think of a better one right now: not "EN-glish", with emphasis on the first syllable, but the "g" distinctly pronounced to start the second; but rather "Eng-LISH", without really emphasizing either syllable and almost dropping the "g". Almost "ehh-lish" with something like a glottal stop where the "ng" should be. Since I can't think of a better example, I suppose there can't have been much of this, but it was certainly distracting and annoying when it did happen.

Finally! This is Gyllenhaal's constant and very marked substitution of "d" for "t" in the middle of words: beaudy, udderly, fiddingly, etc. (And Tolstoy uses "utterly" a *lot*.) Worst of all, though, distracting to the point of hilarity, is giving the "young princess" Cherbetskaya a new nickname: '"Kiddy," he said tenderly...' !

Yes, over and over again, in what are meant to be some of the most moving and heartfelt passages of the book in particular, it's not "Kitty" but Kiddy, Kiddy, Kiddy! And very noticeably at that. Surprising at first ("Surely I've misheard?"--this before I'd noticed the substitution everywhere), then hilarious, then tiresome, and finally just horribly distracting.

I didn't *look* for these examples, you see. At first, I was determined to ignore them. I'd take off my earbuds or turn off the player (the problems are more noticeable with earbuds, but that's how I have to listen at night), and when I started to listen again it would be long enough that I'd have forgotten, at first. Not for long! Then I'd tell myself not to notice, let alone listen for, the "issues". That didn't work either, since the problem is so very distracting.

Every audiobook listener knows what that's like: you're happily in the middle of a wonderful experience, perhaps in another time and place, and suddenly, thwoosh! You're jerked away from the book, *distracted* from that marvellous submersion into elsewhere, other-than. It's the worst that can happen.

And that's how it was with Maggie Gyllenhaal and me. She was distracting. She ruined the mood. Sometimes I *could* forget: in the last chapters; during some of Anna's struggles with her husband. But suddenly, without warning, would come a Kiddy, or a "whaddawe gunna do", and the precious mood was destroyed. Again.

I can overlook this a time or two when rating an audiobook. I'm not insistent on a British accent for the European classics. I prefer an American accent to a phony British one.; I expected Gyllenhaal to speak American English. I also expected her not to mispronounce words which, if not exactly common, aren't arcana, either. They can be sounded out a time or two, if they are unfamiliar. There I blame the producer, though. These folks are paid to catch mispronunciations and to correct them. That could've been done with the dropped or slid-together letters as well. It would've been difficult to correct Gyllenhaal's entire accent, however; once she was hired, I suppose the "whaddaya"s and so forth had to stay... as well as the "beaudy"s And "udderly"s.

But Kiddy! True, drawing Gyllenhaal's attention to that alone would've alerted her to all the substitutions of "d" for "t" and possibly made her self-conscious. But she was so motivated, according to the comments she wrote for Audible! She truly seems to have wanted to do a good job--and she did!--as far as the *acting* goes.

Sadly, that's not enough--neither doing fine work acting while sounding like a gum-chewing waitress of the worst caricature in first-quarter drama, nor wanting to do a great job with your favorite book while ignoring everything but the acting. Don't drama schools teach diction and accents any more? I'm sure they do, so did Gyllenhaal go? I've never considered that important. I may rethink my position.

Ah well: bring on the "not helpful"s or just ignore me. I almost never write good reviews because when I love a book I can't explain why, so most of my (couple of book) reviews are negative, but for trivial reasons. Not this time! I expected so much, and to be derailed by such a seemingly little thing.

83 people found this helpful

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  • LolaD3
  • 06-08-18

I can't believe I finished the whole thing!

Maggie Gyllenhaal is one of my favorite actresses of all time. When I saw that Anna Karenina was on sale a few weeks ago and that Maggie was the narrator, I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised. I not only enjoyed her narrations but the story was interesting as well. It took me a while to finish the entire book but I did. This surprised me because I have been getting into a habit of not finishing books after becoming bored with them. This historical fiction classic was sad, funny and entertaining up to the end. I was surprised at how relative the characters are to modern society. I found Maggie Gyllenhaal's voice to be really relaxing and soothing. It makes the experience very enjoyable.

71 people found this helpful

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  • Johan Sanneblad
  • 09-07-17

Worst performance I have heard yet

I have been listening to dozens of Audible books for years now, and this might be the worst performance I have heard yet. Maggie Gyllenhaal is in my opinion destroying the entire book.

In the Youtube video posted on the book's Audible page she describes the recording as "I wanted to have a light touch on the way I played the different characters, because the way that somebody reading the book is imagining these people with their own voices, their own mind, is really part of the experience".

The problem is that THIS IS NOT HOW AUDIO BOOKS WORK. The result is utterly horrible. There are almost no emotions expressed by Maggie in her voice, there are few and short pauses, no whispers, no shouts and no anger in her voice where it should be. It's the most boring, tiredsome and utterly painful voice I have ever listened to. It's like listening to someone describing a cooking recipe.

I managed 6 hours in this book and was ready to give up when I decided to try the Audible recording by DAVID HOROVITCH instead.

It is SO MUCH BETTER! When David speaks there is emotion in his voice, you can feel the passion, anger and hopefulness of the characters in a way that Maggie could not even come close to accomplish. When Wronsky and Anna meets his voice adds an extra dimension to the experience, like any good actor adds to a theatrical role.

So, for anyone wanting to listen to this great book - stay far away from this recording and get the one from 2008 with David Horovitch instead!

57 people found this helpful

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  • shihao
  • 12-08-16

Really stunning

The voice of the actress is full of emotion but subdued,just like Tolstoy's prose. Beautiful production!!!

50 people found this helpful