As I guess five stars implies perfection, this is maybe as close as I've got to reading the perfect novel. Can't say I normally do 'love stories' or long-winded narrative - this is both. And to be honest, you wouldn't read it for the gripping, highly original plot. But that's kind of missing the whole point, as I discovered. Reading this was a challenge. What one begins to realize is that this book is about people. Their reactions, their different mentalities, their sensibilities, feelings, desires and thought processes.
I don't know what I expected when I downloaded this book. In 1977 the BBC did a dramatisation of Anna Karenina which for some reason stuck somewhere in the back of my head. I just remember something about it being brilliant, so the brilliance of Tolstoy's writing must have to some extent transferred to the small screen.
Probably everything written about this book is true. One word often used is 'timeless'. The characters are timeless, as are their actions and reactions. The situations are timeless, as is people's attitudes to money, religion and the class system. The insight into pre-revolution Russia is remarkable.
At the end of the day, it's just got something, and I'm not sure if I've really put my finger on it. Just read it and weep... at the work of pure genius, the like of which we've not seen since and are unlikely to see again.
One small point. There may be a better, more fluid translation of the original than this. If not, this still gets five stars...