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Audible 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.

Publisher's 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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Fabulous Narration

Incredible book by Tolstoy. I'm in awe of his understanding of human emotion and struggle. Also very impressed with Maggie Gyllenhaal's narration

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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kind of a mopey story with no real point

Well written but tough to get through, pretty mopey and depressing at times due to characters' inner struggles rather than actual circumstance. If you are looking for a good romance you will be disappointed, rarely does the author go into much detail of the characters' relationships; I was hoping it would be more fulfilling in that sense. Would have at least made it more entertaining! Overall quite a bore, but if you are into literature themes and underlying concepts then maybe you will find it interesting.

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Very enjoyable

Loved this story, and I thought Maggie Gyllenhaal’s reading was wonderful. It is definitely a long and thoughtful piece, not for the thrill-seeker! But I loved it - until the end, which I personally found disappointing, but that has nothing to do with the performance. Definitely recommend.

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Hasn’t aged well.

Spoilers inside, read with caution.

I’m a big fan of classic literature, including Russian, and I’ve been wanting to read this novel for a very long time. However, I couldn’t help finding myself unbelievably bored for the majority of this book. It starts out great. The story is compelling and well written, and the characters interesting. However, by the halfway point (likely long before that) the story and situations are so repetitive that I found myself longing for the ending. I understand the themes and what Tolstoy is saying, but, and this is likely a product of my own modern bias, I found the story to be eye-rollingly ham-fisted in its morality. We get it, *SPOILER* Anna and Vronsky are ruined and ultimately doomed in every way because of their moral failings. I feel like the novel could’ve been cut in half — at least — and be all the better for it. Maggie Gyllenhaal was great though, I did enjoy that much.

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  • J. Stirling
  • Connecticut
  • 2016-08-02

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.

69 of 70 people found this review helpful

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  • Stevon
  • Tempe, AZ, United States
  • 2017-01-16

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.

41 of 42 people found this review helpful

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  • Lawrence
  • Monroeville, PA, United States
  • 2016-07-22

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.

102 of 110 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2016-08-12

Really stunning

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

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • dskalzzz
  • Winston-Salem, NC USA
  • 2016-08-10

Maggie Gyllenhaal was Outstanding!

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

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Mary Herold
  • 2016-08-01

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.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Jody
  • THOMASTON, CT, United States
  • 2016-08-08

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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  • Johan Sanneblad
  • 2017-07-09

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!

22 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Andreea Catana
  • Romania
  • 2018-03-02

Maggie Gyllenhall is amazing! Long live Tolstoy!

What made the experience of listening to Anna Karenina the most enjoyable?

I must confess that I have bought the audiobook because of Maggie Gyllenhaal, expecting an amazing performance. And I was not wrong. In fact, I've spent audio-binging the 35 hours in just a couple of days and I consider the best time I could ever have had. I loved Maggie Gyllenhaal's performance, I love the novel ( even more, so much more than before), I love everything connected with this audiobook!

What did you like best about this story?

I was familiar with Tolstoy's work beforehand, but this time, the reading - and I put it on my age now - seemed so much more intimate, magnificent, and relevant. Lev Tolstoy's observations on society, education, religion, spiritual enlightenment, women's role in society, double standard are still valid today and they will be for many more century to come (unfortunately, or fortunately depends how you see it).

Which scene was your favorite?

Every single chapter is my favourite chapter. Every single one.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

"Everything happens on an ordinary day."

Any additional comments?

Thank you, Audible Studio. I shall return to listen to this wonderful audiobook instantly. Please, produce more of these!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • JQt
  • 2017-05-30

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 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Client d'Amazon
  • 2018-07-19

Not an easy read

Took a while before I got to grips with all the characters in the story. That was not easy especially because of the Russian names that were not familiar and sounded alike. Liked andcfinishef the story.