Tolstoys great novel, one of his last works of fiction, tells the story of a harmless flirtation that gradually develops into a destructive passion: the love affair between Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky. Anna turns to Vronsky, a dashing military man, as a refuge from her passionless marriage to a pompous, chilly bureaucrat--a move that results in social ostracization, the loss of her position in the world, and the relentless self-doubt that destroys her confidence and leads to her sad end. A parallel plot follows the contrasting fortunes of Levin (Tolstoys alter ego, with his deep love of the land) and Kitty, whose marriage thrives and prospers because of mutual commitment, sympathy, and respect. In ANNA KARENINA, Tolstoy reaches deep into his own experiences and his observations of family and friends to create a picture of Russian society that reaches from the high life in St. Petersburg and Moscow to the idyllic rural existence of Kitty and Levin. Sketched on a smaller canvas than the vast panorama of WAR AND PEACE, ANNA KARENINA is a profound examination of human psychology. At its heart is its heroine, the flawed, vulnerable, lovable Anna--a woman whom Tolstoy never judges adversely, despite her follies, but whom he views with compassionate understanding throughout. Published two decades after Flauberts groundbreaking MADAME BOVARY, Tolstoys novel is a further exploration of adultery and its effects not only on individuals but on the society at large. Vladimir Nabokov called it one of the greatest love stories in world literature, a view that has been echoed by critics since its publication in the 1870s.