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Editor reviews

Editors Select, September 2016 - July 2016 - Something magical happens when a great performer narrates something he or she truly loves, as is the case with Maggie Gyllenhaal, who told us before recording that Anna Karenina is one of her all-time favorite novels. (It also happens to be a huge favorite of pretty much the entire world, being named the "greatest book ever written" in a recent poll of leading contemporary authors, as well as a personal favorite of Nabokov and Faulkner.) However, despite my love of the classics, I hadn't tackled this one until picking up Gyllenhaal's marvelous rendition, and now I can't imagine experiencing it any other way. She conveys the pulse-racing breathlessness of consuming love and the sighing breathiness of a bored aristocracy with equal precision, and she untangles Russian names that my reader's eye might have struggled to articulate. She takes great care with this great work, delivering one of the best performances I've ever heard. —Emily, Audible Editor

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.

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

20 of 20 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

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.

25 of 30 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Flat narration of complex novel

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

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • MVG
  • London
  • 12-11-16

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

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!

7 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Simply amazing

Maggie is flawless. The story is an absolute roller coaster right until the final word. Incredible how Tolstoy can paint emotion so vividly with words.

Never read anything like it.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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beautifully read great book

I read this on paper years ago, it's great! this version is beautifully read, Maggie G has a great voice , pace and tone, making the book a very enjoyable companion for many hours. well worth it!

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    3 out of 5 stars
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The narration is the only good thing about this book.

Leo Tolstoy wrote about 1 book every 8 to 10 years, that explains so much about why he waffles on about details that add no value to the book.

He goes off on random tangents, for hours.

When I started listening to it the first time - I did not put it down for 6 hours straight. But by the time I was done - I realised these were the 36 hours of my life that I will never get back.

Then why did I bear it - because Gyllenhaal’s narration changes everything and makes even this depressing mess bearable.

Maggie is so good - she should narrate everything.

PS - The book was so long that I found myself sounding more and more like that narrator, which is a good thing.

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  • SAJ
  • UK
  • 22-05-18

Outstanding narration

Such a phenomenal story, and the narration really added to the experience, bringing to life the characters. Really enjoyed listening to it.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

65 of 65 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

37 of 37 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-08-16

Really stunning

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

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Lawrence
  • 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.

99 of 105 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • dskalzzz
  • 10-08-16

Maggie Gyllenhaal was Outstanding!

Beautiful Narration of a deep, melancholy story. So much emotion, so much pain, so human.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mary Herold
  • 01-08-16

Struggles of life

This is the story of human struggle to understand love and hate, good and evil, doubt and fear, responsibilities and consequences, and mans very existence while living through the pains of living. Tolstoy is a master story teller and has an understanding of the inner thoughts of men and women. Excellent.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • JQt
  • 30-05-17

Excellent

Where does Anna Karenina rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

3

Any additional comments?

I'm saddened by the negative comments about Maggie Gyllenhaal... she did a superb job of narrating. As we all know, narrators can destroy a book... her reading kept me captivated. I am so impressed by her and hope I will get to listen to other books she narrates.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • RJ
  • 04-08-17

Exceptional performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal

seemed daunting but ended up being a breeze. amazing story. resplendent characters. a true classic.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jody
  • 08-08-16

Amazing Performance of a Timeless Classic

How I've wished to dive into this novel but never actually took the time until this new audio version was released.
I'm so glad I waited.

The narration by Maggie Gyllenhaal is extraordinary! I found myself listening in every spare moment. I also found it helpful to have the Kindle manuscript because it is hard to remember many of the Russian names without seeing them.

Tolstoy is such a literary genius and in my opinion, there is no excuse for postponing this journey into this masterpiece.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • V. Duckworth
  • 01-08-16

Must Listen!

Art in literature, the Russian novel is real and true. Must read for anyone who enjoys the modern novel.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful