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Anna Karenina is more than 800 pages long. So why does it feel shorter than many 300-page books?

Anna KareninaAs I read this novel recently I noticed that Tolstoy cuts his long scenes into short chapters, usually no more than two or three pages. He often ends a chapter in a moment of suspense – a door opens, a provocative question is asked, a contentious group sits down to dinner, characters who’ve been circling each other finally begin to talk – which propels the reader forward into the next chapter.

The psychological effect of these short chapters is that this huge book is fairly easy to get through. Reading in bed late at night (as I tend to do), I’d be tempted to put it down, but then I’d riffle ahead to find that the next chapter was only three pages long.

Three pages – I can do that. And I really want to find out who’s behind that door …

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