After Sally mentioned being disappointed by Madame Bovary (which I had mentioned in connection with Anna Karenina), I decided to read it again. I read it in high school - 10th or 11th grade - but I didn't remember much except that it was about an adulterous wife. (I hope that's not a spoiler for anyone.)
I haven't finished the book yet - in fact, I haven't gotten to any adultery yet - but it's amazingly different from Anna Karenina. They were published about 25 years apart, and I'm curious if the differences are about changes that happened over that time period or differences between French and Russian culture, or just differences between the authors themselves and their styles.
The difference is hard to characterize. If I'd read MB before AK, I think I would have found it very normal for what it was, and exactly as expected. But having read AK, I'm finding it more difficult to get through. (Let me say explicitly what should be obvious - the books are similar enough in some sense that comparing them makes sense.)
When you read AK, it feels like you really get, on a true psychological level, what is going on with the characters, like you are right in with them. With MB, it's more like looking at a diorama - everything is removed, small, somewhat intricately described but without real "life" to it. Or like the story is wrapped in several layers of tissue paper.
Anna Karenina is just so much more...modern.