The Timeless Question: Is Infidelity Ever Justified? - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog


The Timeless Question: Is Infidelity Ever Justified?


How would you feel if the person of your dreams fell wildly in love with you? How would you feel if every time you saw that person they gave you butterflies and made you laugh? How about if they were honest, kept no secrets, and lavished you with the perfect amount of attention and affection? If you were never bored with this person and that they always revved your engine?

Imagine that’s your reality, but your family and friends told you that you couldn’t be with this person. No, this isn’t a Romeo and Juliet tale; this is quite a different story.

The Timeless Question: Is Infidelity Ever Justified?

This is the story of Anna Karenina, the celebrated tale from the 1800s. It’s about a woman who finds perfect love while living in imperfect circumstances. It is the story of Anna who is both moral and immoral, sweet and sassy, a woman who seeks advice but who then refuses to listen to it. Anna sounds like the modern girl, sometimes polished and proper but other times raw and unrestrained. As you listen to her story narrated by Golden Globe winning actress Maggie Gyllenhaal on Audible (they’re offering a free 1 month trial), you’ll find yourself both rooting for Anna and against her.

Her marriage to the formally stiff, impassionate bureaucrat, Alexei Karenin has become the ultimate emblem of everything Karenina despises, as it is loveless and false. However, the tastefully reserved, elegant Karenina has no wishes to end her marriage or leave her beloved son… until she meets Alexei Vronsky, the dashing, passionate military officer. To Karenina, Vronsky represents a life she yearns for, filled with passion and affection.

You’ll feel as though you, or a friend, could be in her exact circumstances. The truth is, all of us have been where Anna is — maybe not with a husband, but certainly with a boyfriend (or two). We’ve all searched for true love, sometimes finding it but more often picking through fool’s gold. We’ve wondered when the perfect person–the one with looks, brains, personality, and utter sex appeal–will sweep us off our feet.

But very few of us stop and think about what happens when we do find this person. Do we immediately jump in if the circumstances aren’t right? Do we try to change the circumstances to make them right? What if we know that we have to do wrong for things to be right? Do we still do it?

Nowadays, if you find yourself in an unhappy marriage, you can get a divorce. There are no repercussions such as social exile or the possibility of estrangement from your children. Can you imagine living in the time of Anna Karenina where women married young, and yet divorce was all but unheard of, and women who stepped outside of their marriages became social pariahs? So many women must have missed out on true love.

The Timeless Question: Is Infidelity Ever Justified?

Anna Karenina will make you ask yourself these questions. Just like Anna, I feel that I’m a moral person, and yet I’m not so sure what I’d do if I felt similarly trapped. Listening to the story, it made me feel her emotions, question my approach to fidelity, and provided fodder for some enlightening conversations with my friends. As I listened to it narrated on Audible, I wondered: what would have happened if I met my hubby (who is fortunately the man of my dreams) while I was stuck in a loveless relationship? What would I have done?

What would you have done if you were in that situation? This story will help you answer that question.

Now imagine that the man you fall for is also married. Does the inevitability of destroying another woman’s life change things? Would you stuff those feelings down and ignore them, as Anna’s husband (much more poetically) requested she do? We may sometimes be tempted to deceive ourselves when it comes to relationships, convincing ourselves that the one we’re with is “the one,” even if we suspect, deep down, that something isn’t quite right. But is self-deception ever a good thing?

Another wrinkle in this story is the blatantly sexist double standard; while Anna is cast as a “depraved woman” and shunned from society, her lover is distraught, yes, but never overly apologetic. When his friend chides him, he jokingly calls his friend a “moralist,” implying that the entire situation is to be taken lightly, despite his wife’s inconsolability. This demonstrates the double standard that is still alive and well today; that “boys will be boys” but women who commit the same adulterous or sexual acts as men are labeled as a “slut,” “bitch,” or somehow socially devious and therefore an unworthy individual.

If you want to engage with an entertaining tale that will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you question right and wrong, look no further than Anna Karenina on Audible, my fav source to listen to the best books on the go (which is always!).

Speaking of audiobooks, I love listening to them while driving. On long plane, train or automobile rides, nothing is more absorbing than listening to a good book. When I’m sitting in traffic in an Uber, I find myself lost in a spectacular story rather than listening to the persistent sirens, construction noises and honking.

So the next time you’re looking for an escape, your next adventure is only a click away….

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.


  1. Satina E. Stebbins

    When people hear a story that tells about love, you can’t really avoid listening and going deep into it. We are wired to have and to fulfill this kind of longing . We can stay passive and wait or we can go actively seeking adventure. The author’s story stirred me up. I hope my story would be this exciting.

  2. Sonja Fallow

    So true, Hilary! Together with ‘War and peace’ and ‘Resurrection’, Tolstoy wrote three of the greatest novels ever. 🙂 – by the way, can I use Audible on my Kindle?

    • Roberta Bennett

      Yes, you can! I have it on my kindle, and it even allows you to directly download the books on your kindle over wifi. 🙂

  3. Teresa Tanner

    I have to admit I read this story because it has been made into a film and I wanted to read the book to gain a first impression rather than the film version.What can I say?!I usually read modern fiction and and I found the writing style of Tolstoy bit of a challenge. But I liked it enough that I’m actually considering to sign up on Audible to get the free audibook version. 🙂

  4. Sabrina Wellington

    I read Anna Karenina: In Half the Time (Compact Editions) instead because the original book was just too long for me, however that said this is a beautiful book and I can’t wait to get the audiobook!!

  5. Matilda Parker

    You’re well spot on, Hilary! ? This for me is the best of Tolstoy. The story is excellent and Tolstoy’s description of salon society in Tsarist Russia is fascinating. In a way Anna’s fall from grace is similar to bonfire of the vanities. Tolstoy does tend to set up each chapter with about 5-10 pages of desriptive prose on agricultural woes or other countryside news, but once we get back to the story it is excellent.

    • Winona Miller

      A lot of people claim this is “the best book ever written” and other such originalities, but I kindly disagree. Obviously Tolstoy does demonstrate a good grasp of his language and imagination. Apart from that the characters are truly despicable, each and everyone of those so called nobles and aristocrats. I was relieved when I finished it so now I can slate it when discussing it with friends.

  6. Dorothy Harris

    Why does work on a subscription, rather than à la carte model? Amazon sells books. iTunes sells audio files, both are really successful at selling by the piece. So why does the main purveyor of books that are audio files use a subscription model? I mean, I guess it works for them, but it really confuses me as a consumer.

    • Debbie Jones

      For the same reason your gym charges you every month. To get a guaranteed revenue stream regardless of whether you use it or not. There’s a bonus to being a member as well: Their a la carte prices are discounted by 30%.

    • Loraine Aguilar

      You can buy individual titles from Audible, but their prices are prohibitive. I think that Audible found, early on, that people wouldn’t pay those prices, and that most audiobook listeners are frequent listeners and want a subscription model. And it works better for me that way. ?

  7. Christina Brown

    This is beautiful, and I agree wholeheartedly with what you’re saying. Anna Karenina is a ravishing, romantic epic, visualising happiness, love and matters of the heart through a lens of wondrously exhilarating artifice. Personally, I think that this was such a great film and Keira Knightley.The film makes an interesting stylistic choice by having the majority of the film take place inside of a theater. Thank you so much for writing a lovely article.

  8. Ayla Pennington

    Recently signed up and received my first free book; Anna Karenina. These historical novels where much of the enjoyment comes from the accurate depiction of life in some time period long gone have never quite been my cup of tea, and neither was Anna Karenina. Nevertheless, there was easily enough to like to listen through the whole thing. But I’m really loving the Audible app!

  9. Catherine White

    My roomie and I adore audible! I commute 2 hours per day and she drives about an hour and 15 minutes. We each have an Audible subscription for 2 books per month. If one of us really enjoys a book the other will listen to it and we can discuss. 🙂

  10. Andrea Mitchell

    I am so freaking addicted to audiobooks! They are the only way I get any exercise done and they actually make me look forward to my commute. I’ve had an Audible subscription for a while and it is definitely worth it!

  11. Celine Carter

    Timeless novel. ❤️ Loved it to pieces when I read it in college. I will definitely get the auidobook. 🙂

  12. Camila Hilhorst

    Oh my god!! Maggie Gyllenhaal narrated this?? I love her and her brother Jake Gyllenhaal so much! That is alone a reason for me to get this book. But I gotta sign up first, and I will. Thank you soooo much, Hilary!

  13. Colleen Frasier

    I absolutely adore this book! Maggie Gyllenhaal cites Tolstoy’s epic novel as one of her favorite books of all time, and her love for the literature permeates her performance. ?

  14. Delilah Peyton

    One month free trial? And if I don’t like it, I’ll cancel my subscription free of charge?! Wow.. I need to sign up.

    • Yes!! Audible has a large selection of books and a vast customer base, which in turn leads you to have a huge selection of thoroughly and accurately rated books to choose from. Also, right now they’re doing a promotion that gets you two free books for a month!

  15. Christina Cavanaugh

    Proud Audible fan here! I’ve listened to so many amazing books on Audible since 2008, but ashamed to say haven’t gotten around to listen to this all times classic.

  16. Daisy Clarke

    This article brought back some memories… When I was in college I read The English Patient, in which Madox carries around a copy of Anna Karenina that he writes notes and pastes photos into, and being pretentious I tried to do that myself with an old copy. I’m sure I was subconsciously hoping that someone else who’d read The English Patient would notice, but of course no one did. ?

  17. Jae Medina

    This is the story that made me scared of trains… Lol I’m a huge fan of the mobile version of Audible though. 🙂 🙂

  18. Melissa Princeton

    Lovely article! But I already read this book, and I don’t like listening to books which I’ve already read before. Would really appreciate more audiobook recommendations. Thanks! 🙂

  19. Lucretia Asher

    Wonderful book, I’ve read it in Spanish before, yet to read or hear it in English.

  20. Hmmm. I’ve literally just downloaded the app and the book right after reading this post. This is my first time ever listening to an audiobook. I would have thought they would have asked voice actors to do the various characters, but clearly not. I think they should!!

  21. I love this book! I’m sure the audiobook is just as amazing as the text-novel. Thanks for the suggestion. I’m downloading Audible as I’m typing this. ❤️

  22. My favourite book and author ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy!!! I’m not into audiobook thing yet, but I think I’ll give it a try. 🙂

  23. I 100% agree with this article! It’s one of my favourite audiobooks that I got from Audible. ☺️ Loved the reader’s voice and how she read the book so adequately! 5/5

  24. Never tried Audible but I will, because I’ve recently discovered that I love love LOVE the combination of reading and listening to these huge works of classic literature, particularly those that have been translated by great translators. There’s just something about physically seeing the translator’s work on a respective author’s work, seeing and identifying the choices said translator would have had to make in the process, and then changing it up with listening to the words, how they sound, that makes the book-enjoyment process somehow more electric for me.

  25. It’s wonderful to see a magazine have reviews for audiobooks. As someone who consumes a lot of novels on audiobooks, I find this feature of Urbanette extremely useful. ?

  26. Great piece about this wonderful novel. I think it’s time I get me a audible account and enjoy it as an audio experience too! Thanks, Hilary!

  27. For three months I lived in South Woodford and worked in Hounslow, driving there and back each day. A long, tedious journey. Then someone gifted me an audible version of Anna Karenina on the mobile app. Suddenly each journey was a delight, something to look forward to. The written version followed and I remain eternally grateful to the person who introduced me to this great novel. ?

  28. OMG! I’ll definitely get the audiobook! Really enjoyed the novel. I was left with pondering the loneliness of the character of Anna, and that we are all incomprehensible to each other. We all die alone. ?

  29. While I enjoyed the audio book, I did feel that it would have benefited from a good editor. Madame Bovary deals with a similar theme far more succinctly and successfully, and without the self-indulgent digressions into Russian agricultural policy which are a tedious chore for the reader. Flaubert sticks to the drama and reads like a thriller in comparison with Tolstoy.

  30. Anna Karenina is one of my favourite novels of all time. Part of its essential honesty and believability may come from the fact that it is based at least in part on Tolstoy’s own life — the courtship of Levin and Kitty mirrors his own courtship of Sonya Behrs, down to the harrowing moment when he, in good faith but with little common sense, gives her his diaries to read, making a pious and sheltered girl learn in detail about his trysts with prostitutes and peasants — a shock from which his real-life wife confessed she never recovered. The scene of Kitty’s long and painful confinement, also based on one of Sonya’s, is extremely moving as well.

  31. It seems to exist within its own parameters and you do wonder what they are. Enjoyable finesse compared to the doting mom and pop of experimental writing – stream of consciousness (modernism) and authorial self-reference (post-modernism).

  32. Good article. I’ve just finished rlistenning to AK for the first time only a few weeks ago, and was struck by how amazing it was! There’s head-hopping galore, and amazing dialogue. The Levin/Kitty relationship and marriage is my favourite. My feeling is that he didn’t plot the book, but let his characters lead him. I loved it.

  33. Great book, it’s a real shame that a lot of people have seen the film and not bother with the original text or audio.

  34. Anna Karenina’s last thoughts before her tragic end and her perception of reality defy anything produced by literary modernism after Tolstoy.

  35. Joanna Garado

    What a stunning photo. The photo alone makes me want to listen to the story LOL

  36. Oh!!! The story with a LOT of names! I wonder how Maggie prepared for this!

  37. Donna Holleman

    I have the Kindle edition of Anna Karenina and I find it a wonderful read, there’s success, failure, love, hate, jealousy, and the unexpected ending. Though the names confused me. If I listen to it, will I be able to easily comprehend and understand the names?!

  38. Room for improvement comment: I think Maggie Gyllenhaal lack emotional expressions, some Russian names were not pronounced correctly. I don’t mean to be rude or something, I just can’t help but compare her version with David Horovitch’s. That’s how I love Anna Karenina, I’ve read and I’ve listened to various versions 🙂

  39. Through a colleague, I was able to listen to this audiobook! It was an amazing piece! I don’t think I would be able to finish the story if I was reading it. Thanks to modern technology, I discover inspiring stories through listening!

  40. For a music lover like me, listening to audiobooks is an activity I enjoy. I think Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance on Audible’s The Bell Jar is very impressive. I’m pretty sure I won’t regret listening to Anna Karenina too!

  41. Sarah Evanston

    I love how you introduced “Anna Karenina” 🙂 I haven’t read the book but after reading this review, I became interested. But why read if I can listen to it?! *LazySarah* LOL


  42. I believe Audible just released Anna Karenina, right? I have read the book and I personally love the story because it presents impact that social norms have on personal choice. Now, I’m wondering if the story will leave the same effect on me when I listen to it?!

    • Francis Woods

      You won’t know unless you try 😉 I’m impressed with Audible because fantastic and extensive collection. Haven’t listen to this one though!!! Gonna search for comments…

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