The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature

The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature

Viv Groskop has discovered the meaning of life in Russian literature. As she knows from personal experience, everything that has ever happened in life has already happened in these novels: from not being sure what to do with your life (Anna Karenina) to being in love with someone who doesn't love you back enough (A Month in the Country by Turgenev) or being socially anxious about your app(A(Anna...

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Title:The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature
Author:Viv Groskop
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature Reviews

  • Lea

    I heard of this book thanks to the Spectator books podcast. The Spectator's literary editor, Sam Leith, is a wonderfully nerdy character who seems to be interested in a number of random and quite specific subjects, and he had Viv Groskop in one of the episodes to talk about this book. I was immediately taken by her, she was funny and unpretentious. I procured a copy of The Anna Karenina Fix and told myself I'd read it, but not right away (given the fact I have about 800 other books in my TBR).

  • Liina Bachmann

    This is one of those books that I want to buy 10 copies of and give to all my friends.

    I had a huge phase with Russian classics in my mid-twenties. I have never understood that mystical aura that surrounds those books, mainly consisting of opinions that they are so difficult to read and oh so intellectual. I thought most of them quite page turners plus beautiful beautiful prose so what's there not to love?

    This book is excellent because it is so versatile. It combines interesting fact

    This is one of those books that I want to buy 10 copies of and give to all my friends.

    I had a huge phase with Russian classics in my mid-twenties. I have never understood that mystical aura that surrounds those books, mainly consisting of opinions that they are so difficult to read and oh so intellectual. I thought most of them quite page turners plus beautiful beautiful prose so what's there not to love?

    This book is excellent because it is so versatile. It combines interesting facts about the Russian authors (and I mean fun and relatable not dry datums) with an introduction to the storyline and how it is relatable to modern day life and issues. All this is done in such a smart and funny tone that the pages fly by. Highly recommended!

  • Miina Saarna

    A wonderful book. Very witty, funny and smart at the same time. A perfect balance between a memoir and a discussion of Russian literature. Made me want to read more Russian classics (I realized I have never read anything form Gogol or Turgenev) and re-read Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Master and Margarita, and Doctor Zhivago. A great book I would recommend to anyone interested in Russian authors.

  • Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog:

    'More instances of unrequited love are added to the mix so that, in the end, it’s a merry-go-round of people sighing over people looking the other way.'

    I didn’t think this book would be so much fun, let’s face it, Russian Literature is heavy but Viv Groskop had me laughing about her own Russian experience. In search of her roots, trust me this changes the meaning Viv excavated from literature and Russia itself, Viv takes us on a ride through the minds of the great authors and yo

    via my blog:

    'More instances of unrequited love are added to the mix so that, in the end, it’s a merry-go-round of people sighing over people looking the other way.'

    I didn’t think this book would be so much fun, let’s face it, Russian Literature is heavy but Viv Groskop had me laughing about her own Russian experience. In search of her roots, trust me this changes the meaning Viv excavated from literature and Russia itself, Viv takes us on a ride through the minds of the great authors and you don’t have to throw yourself on the train tracks to relate. There were interesting tidbits, where inspiration bubbled up for say Leo Tolstoy or Ivan Turgenev and how many of the authors struggled with their own hypocrisy. Then there is Gogol and his neurotic tendencies, you shouldn’t laugh, but how can you not? We are only human, and just as contrary as the greats.

    What of Viv, herself a fool for love, unrequited? Who hasn’t walked the empty rooms of such love? Baying at the moon, why… why don’t you love me? Well, the Russian’s have your back. Just join the ranks of all those star-gazing fools sighing over the object of their affections who are sighing over someone else, who probably doesn’t love them back either. Oh it’s a cold, cruel world!

    One could overdose on all the moralizing, and yet the very characters we’re meant to avoid becoming, they make us love. Am I a hedgehog or a fox? Am I both? (you have to read) Let the women not be discounted either, for their own greatness, how many people write for survival, how many write when it could very well be your death? I can’t even memorize this post, and I doubt I could find ten people to keep something I’ve written safe in their own heads.

    Viv is frank about her own life, her search for identity by hitching on the Russian wagon, and when she finally solves the mystery of her family’s ethnicity I couldn’t suppress a laugh because it has the ingredients for a classic story itself… really, doesn’t it just figure, what a character Viv is! I loved it, loved her voice, her drama, her humor and you don’t have to like Russian literature, you can avoid it, fear it, embrace it and still come away from this book having a giggle. Trust me, there are serious moments, of course there are, some downright heartbreaking, no wonder these authors wrote masterpieces, their own lives were fresh hell at times. You can’t get more morbid or down in the dumps than the characters these men created, well maybe you can, the world can be a pretty ugly place. But like Viv tells us, ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.’

    Publication Date: October 23, 2018

    Abrams Press

  • SheAintGotNoShoes

    Terrific book !

    Very informative, entertaining, funny and enjoyable. I loved Viv's humor and learning about a batch of diverse super serious Russian authors. 2019 will be the year of Tolstoy, Turgenev, et al !!

  • Vivek Tejuja

    I am a sucker for Russian Literature. I have read Anna Karenina twice and the Brothers Karamazov about two and a half times (I dropped it half-way the third time, because it was getting too much for once to handle) and not to forget Master and Margarita about twice as well. There are many more Russian works of great significance and most of it is classical or semi-modern. What I also love is books about books and “The Anna Karenina Fix” merges these elements beautifully. It is a book about books

    I am a sucker for Russian Literature. I have read Anna Karenina twice and the Brothers Karamazov about two and a half times (I dropped it half-way the third time, because it was getting too much for once to handle) and not to forget Master and Margarita about twice as well. There are many more Russian works of great significance and most of it is classical or semi-modern. What I also love is books about books and “The Anna Karenina Fix” merges these elements beautifully. It is a book about books but Russian Literature and how it can save your life (well in more ways than one) and also how one can actually learn from it.

    “The Anna Karenina Fix” by Viv Groskop is a handy guide to life as learned from the works of Russian Literature. Be it Chekov or Turgenev or Akhmatova, every book or author chosen by Groskop in this book has had a role to play in her life – in making her live it day after day, month after month and year after year. It is a warm and fuzzy (well, not so fuzzy) book about humans, their frailties, passions, desires and weaknesses when it comes to that.

    The book charts the author’s relationship with everything Russian – language, art, culture and how she weaves her memories with the classics is something any reader who loves books will enjoy. At the same time, Groskop introduces the Russian classics to you if you hadn’t heard of them and does a very good job of that. Also, even though there are spoilers, but that will not take away from the experience of reading these Russian books if you want to at some point.

    “The Anna Karenina Fix” is a solid book about living life and how to actually go about it through some Russian books. It is sublime, lucid and provides a great reading list as well. She also could have gotten preachy about the life lessons, however that doesn’t happen at all. If anything, it is all about what you can take away personally from these books and apply to your life (if you want to, that is).

    Academic research material is not heavy-handedly used in the book. If anything, the language is extremely simple, just as it should be. “The Anna Karenina Fix” is the kind of book that creeps up on you unexpectedly and stays long after. It is also the kind of book that will make you read other books, which is a double-win if you ask me. So, go, read this book!

  • Marquise

    An immensely delightful memoir cum literary critique cum biography cum soul-searching journal, focusing on the author's lifelong love for Russian literature. You know, those crushingly thick tomes they made us read in school for the purpose (I suspect!) of inducing existential crises at an early age.

    As a fellow lover of Russian classics, I laughed a lot at Viv Groskop's often witty commentary on each of the great writers and their masterpieces, liberally condimented with personal ane

    An immensely delightful memoir cum literary critique cum biography cum soul-searching journal, focusing on the author's lifelong love for Russian literature. You know, those crushingly thick tomes they made us read in school for the purpose (I suspect!) of inducing existential crises at an early age.

    As a fellow lover of Russian classics, I laughed a lot at Viv Groskop's often witty commentary on each of the great writers and their masterpieces, liberally condimented with personal anecdotes of her life and adventures in Mother Russia. I laughed the loudest at poor Miss Viv's struggles with Russian patronymics, her very literal translation of Russian names ("God's Gift, son of God's Gift..." Hahaha!), and the torture of learning Russian diminutives that make you think all Russians have 47 names each. All of this is especially amusing to me because, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on, I've never experienced these struggles: I can find out the right patronymics on the spot, can identify diminutives, etc. That must be why I was never confused when reading "Anna Karenina," "Doctor Zhivago," "Crime and Punishment," and the like. Don't ask me why or how, I just

    it.

    Of the authors mentioned, the ones I enjoyed Groskop's take on the most were the two usual suspects, Lev Nikolaievich and Fyodor Mikhailovich (Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, for those who do struggle with Russian names, heh.) Her adventures with Bulgakov and Pasternak were also interesting, mostly because I've not read the former yet (I know! Shame, shame, shame...) and I know next to nothing on the latter's life despite counting his book amongst my favourites.

    Only one thing I'd reproach Groskop's book for: the shocking absence of any commentary on "The Brothers Karamazov." I say, how can you talk at length about Dostoyevsky in his dedicated chapter and all throughout the book and not utter a peep on the Brothers K?! Minus one star and no beet soup for you!

  • Jeanette

    All these Literature majors everywhere and Viv Groskop is the first to publish this slant on analysis/ interpretation? Probably not, but it's the first one I've ever read that does the widescreen and the minutia views played through the camera of her own individual student memoir lens of studying Russian literature IN Russia, speaking Russian and trying to BE Russian. Only in that way that a naive 18 to 20 year old in the turmoil of unrequited love could too.

    She thinks her name has to be Russia

    All these Literature majors everywhere and Viv Groskop is the first to publish this slant on analysis/ interpretation? Probably not, but it's the first one I've ever read that does the widescreen and the minutia views played through the camera of her own individual student memoir lens of studying Russian literature IN Russia, speaking Russian and trying to BE Russian. Only in that way that a naive 18 to 20 year old in the turmoil of unrequited love could too.

    She thinks her name has to be Russian, despite the entire portfolio of unknowns from her recorded paternal ancestry. And Russian classics literature, being what it is? Well, it's in my soul. I must go to join them. And speak and know and think in Russian.

    But that's just the hook of her story. There's far, far more here/ and there. It's enchanting and entertainment delight. And full of quotes, facts, and the intersects filled with piercing literature light beams. Some of the windows: Tolstoy, Gogol, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Turgenov, Pasternak, Bulgakov, Pushkin, Anna Akhmatova- you will learn if they are "hedgehogs" or "foxes". (I'm a born hedgehog, just like Dostoevsky). And where that "What's it all about Alfie?" question moves though their works and how that applies in our present and always "now" human lives.

    Difficult, emotional, and bizarre- all around. And with their uniquely Russian SOUL realities.

    The soul that reacts. In all the human schism of duality, self-immolation, crisis duplicitous schemes, avarice, revenge and of course "the duels".

    The facts of their biographies are included. So many short lived and of their interact with each other? It's all superb. A most excellent read. I wanted to give it 5 stars. For me it was 4.5 stars. But because of the patronomyics and other "let's learn these features first" intros and backgrounds- I found that the shortest of this is STILL beyond difficult. It's not that we "other" (not Russian) don't "get" all the translations nuances, but more that it is just so extremely DIFFICULT in layers of complexities! This reading experience, giggles for all savvy successful humor and asides, STILL difficult. This short book took me at least 3 times longer to read than a non-fiction strongly defined science book of twice the length.

    Why tackle it? I can only guess that if you'll try- you'll love it. If you have read the Russians (maybe by 1/2 of these authors would enhance her tale; I have read about 3/4ths of all she compacts to survey here)- and if you'll have patience. Crazy dichotomies, beyond unbelievable diets, class and religious "big ideas" of obsession or bizarre manners, love of every kind (hate just as evident too) and never forget the unrequited, and those entirely stricken with sickness, under persecution, death in every form. And nearly all entirely in the 19th and 20th century mindsets of Russian soul's expression.

    Even if you haven't gotten to Solzhenitsyn yet- give it a college try! Most unique and enjoyable book for the last 2 years in non-fiction for me, despite the 4 star rating. Never perfect (her politico and philosophy "eyes" are SO varied from mine)- especially in what she believes are the "big ideas" and how she draws the lines of "category"- but humor, passion, failure, hypocrisy- your name IS Russian.

    The chapter titles, quotes, asides and introduction lines are 5 star stupendous. And there is an excellent reference and reading suggestions portion at the end.

    Here appears the last and one of the best chapter titles:

    How To Know What Matters in Life:

    War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy

    (Or: Don't Try to Kill Napoleon)

    "We thought it was the end of the world, but it turned out for the best."

  • Vishy

    I discovered Viv Groskop's 'The Anna Karenina Fix : Life Lessons from Russian Literature' while browsing in the bookshop and couldn't resist getting it. I thought it was time to read it now.

    Viv Groskop's book has eleven essays on Russian classics. In each of the essays, Groskop picks one Russian classic, discusses the plot and the characters, and talks about the insights and life lessons that the classic has to offer. She covers many of the great 19th century writers (and some 20th century writ

    I discovered Viv Groskop's 'The Anna Karenina Fix : Life Lessons from Russian Literature' while browsing in the bookshop and couldn't resist getting it. I thought it was time to read it now.

    Viv Groskop's book has eleven essays on Russian classics. In each of the essays, Groskop picks one Russian classic, discusses the plot and the characters, and talks about the insights and life lessons that the classic has to offer. She covers many of the great 19th century writers (and some 20th century writers) but Leo Tolstoy gets the pride of place by having two of his books featured in the list. My favourite essays in the book were those on Dostoevsky's 'Crime and Punishment', Chekhov's 'Three Sisters' and Solzhenitsyn's 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich'.

    Throughout the essays, Groskop weaves in her own story and experiences and describes how the classics impacted her and helped her. Groskop's style is breezy, charming, conversational, filled with humour and is a pleasure to read. The book suspiciously resembles Elif Batuman's acclaimed book 'The Possessed : Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them'. But I haven't read Batuman's book yet, and so I can't really complain.

    I enjoyed reading 'The Anna Karenina Fix'. It is a beautiful, charming love letter to Russian literature. It is also a great introduction to Russian literature. If you love Russian literature, you will enjoy reading this.

    I am giving below two of my favourite passages from the book to give you a feel for Groskop's style.

    "The Russian classics are, admittedly, not the most obvious place to look for tips for a happier life. Russian literature is full of gloomy people wondering how on earth they have ended up in the appalling predicament in which they find themselves, looking around desperately for someone else to blame and then realizing that, in fact, they were right in the first place : life really is extremely inconvenient and annoying, and we are all just waiting to die. But they also teach us that it can, crucially, be survived. And it can be enjoyed, beautifully."

    "A few weeks after...we moved on to Pushkin. If I thought the parrot was a bad idea, this was an even worse one. It's like giving someone a two-week course in English and then saying, 'And now we're going to read Othello.' It's fairly typical of the teaching of Russian though. They like to throw you in at the deep end. And they like to make sure you remain completely intimidated by the language for as long as possible. That way, if you pass on to the other side and actually do learn to speak it, you'll maintain the age-old myth that it's difficult to learn and pass that on to other people so that the Russian speakers can remain in their own special and secret club. Having to read Pushkin several weeks into a 'Russian from scratch' course is a sort of hazing you never recover from. It is specially designed to make you want to haze others so that they will suffer as you have suffered. To quote Pushkin : 'I want to understand you. I study your obscure language.'"

    Have you read Viv Groskop's book? What do you think about it?

  • Emma

    I had really been looking forward to this book, and although I enjoyed it and learned a lot about Russian literature I didn't love it. It just felt a bit like hard work to read, and I wasn't expecting that. The authors way of writing is very self deprecating and very honest, and I like the way she interspersed her own life with stories within the Russian classics. It has made me feel I need to read at least one Russian novel in my life (I gave up on The Idiot last year) so watch this space!

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