The average novel probably takes the average reader just a couple of weeks to read, (assuming you’re fitting it in around everything else you’ve got going on).
Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, at an admittedly hefty 829 pages, will undoubtedly take a lot longer, but then again, it most certainly isn’t your average novel…
To give you an idea of quite how brilliant it is, when the great American novelist William Faulkner was asked to name the three best novels ever written, he replied: ‘Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina.’ On top of that, the likes of Vladimir Nabokov and Fyodor Dostoyevsky have praised it as one of the most magical and perfect novels ever written.
In other words, it’s long because it’s a rich and complex masterpiece; a multi-layered tale of love and adultery set against the backdrop of high society in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. And with a lavish-looking film adaptation due out in September, starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law, with a screenplay by none other than Tom Stoppard and direction from Joe Wright (of Atonement and Pride and Prejudice fame), there’s never been a better time to start reading it.
So we’re setting you, and ourselves, the challenge of reading (or re-reading) this incredible book before Christmas.
Given that, on average, we read 200 words per minute, this 200,000 word novel should take you, the desperate-to-be-distracted commuter, approximately 1000 minutes to read. And given that there are around 5000 commuting minutes remaining until Christmas, we reckon this is easily achievable.
If we all add up the time we spend staring into space on the train every morning and evening, or even just steal an extra 20 minutes before bed, we’ll have devoured it in no time.
We’ll all be reading it here at Penguin HQ, blogging about our progress and reactions along the way, and we’d love you to get involved too – whether on your own, with your book group, or with friends – by letting us know how you’re getting on.
So, here we go. Watch this space for our first update next week, where we’ll be discussing our reactions to the opening, and the implications of that first line…
Marketing Assistant, Penguin Press