The superior "novel" is Anna Karenina, while War and Peace is a stronger total work. Tolstoy stated that Anna K. was his only book since he believed War and Peace to be an epic poetry in prose form. However, I've heard that Anna Karenina is Tolstoy's superior work, so take that as you will. Also, there are some who claim that War and Peace is actually two separate books connected by an interlude, not one single work.
Tolstoy's wife, Serena, wrote the introduction for the first Russian translation of Anna Karenina. In it, she praises her husband for creating a masterpiece that "none of his contemporaries could equal." She also states that he learned much from Dickens during his time in England and that this influence can be seen in War and Peace.
Some have argued that Lermontov's poem "The Hero of our Times" serves as a sequel to War and Peace but this is not certain. It's possible that Lermontov was merely paying homage to his friend and mentor with these words; however, others believe that he had actual plans for a novel that were never completed.
In conclusion, no, Anna Karenina is not better than War and Peace. They are two very different types of novels with nothing common except their author. That being said, if you're looking for a simple story about love then Anna Karenina is for you.
Anna Karenina is excellent because it demonstrates Tolstoy's brilliance while being far less daunting than War and Peace. Personally, I enjoyed reading Madame Bovary far more. I too thought the Brothers Karamazov were considerably deeper. But we all have our preferences.
As for the character of Anna Karenina, she's tragic yet accessible, honest yet complex. She starts out as a plain woman who doesn't even own a mirror, then goes through life unhappy until she meets Vronsky which changes everything. After that, she makes the wrong choices which lead to her destruction. Yet despite all this, she remains likable.
I also love how Tolstoy weaves history into his novels. He shows us what happened after Anna Karenina's death with her son Alexei who becomes an idiot who believes his mother will come back to save him from prison. Then we follow this story up until its conclusion hundreds of years later when Anna's descendant Sophie reads about her in a book and is filled with joy.
Finally, I love how ambitious this novel is. It covers so much ground in such a short space of time; you're never bored for a moment. And what's more, you feel like you learn something from every chapter. Even if you've read these events before they're still told with such passion and creativity that you can't help but be captivated.
To be honest, Anna Karenina is not appropriate for a reader under the age of 18, simply because such a reader would not grasp a word of what is going on. This is true for the majority of Tolstoy's works. They are written in a language that only experienced readers will understand.
However, those who can handle more mature content will enjoy this novel. It is about a beautiful young woman named Anna who lives with her husband and son in Russia. She has two other men in her life: one is her cousin Vronsky, who is heir to a large estate; the other is an army officer named Levin. All three men play important roles in Anna's life as she tries to decide what kind of person she wants to be.
This novel is told through Anna's eyes, so it is subjective and detailed information about her feelings is included. This means that some people might find it difficult reading due to the intensity of these emotions.
Those who want to read something more mature than your average teenage novel will love Anna Karenina!