Jumping into a set of novels is a commitment. Typically, there are a given set of cultural references, author nuances, and world rules to learn.
Yep, it's true even for the modern romance novel.
So when the Russian novels come up, I'm far behind the learning curve. I don't know much about the history for the country, other than some basics about a missing princess, their role in the World Wars, and the failure of central planning. I've never jumped into the pool to figure out what is going on.
I've done that with Victorian novels. At first, it was because of the courses offered at my college. Most of the professors taught either Shakespeare or Victorian literature (it was a fairly small college.) I've read enough Jane Austen, Wilke Collins, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Bronte sisters, etc. to feel comfortable with the cultural norms of that day. I also think that the Real World happenings of that time were amazing. The innovations, the clothing, the changing roles of society, were caused or captured by these writers.
I haven't ever built any of that for the Russians. I've occasionally felt the urge, but I'm an all or nothing sort of girl.
But the steps on the learning curve start with a single book. My first Jane Austen book was Pride and Prejudice. I remember enjoying the wit and banter of Lizzie and Mr. Darcy, but skimming the rest of the story. The first time I read Great Expectations, I thought it was wordy and slow. I haven't really changed my mind about Dickens style, but reading David Copperfield years later was easier now that I understood the time frame better. It even put some of Great Expectations into the proper context.
While it appears Anna Karenina is the going to the title, I can't help but wonder how this will turn out. After all, Tolstoy wrote the novel in the late 1800s. He explored themes similar the Victorians. Perhaps I'm further into the learning curve than I thought.
It's never to late to plunge into a new realm of reading.