I've been reading Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina for a while now (you must pardon me; it's nearly 990 pages long and I've been reading other things too), and as I read I am impressed with his art and perception. The story is tragic, follows more than one adultery, plagued with depression and hatred, but Tolstoy shows these characters as real and complex, their stories in motion and with conseqeuences, and their falls and stumblings for what they are and for how they destroy life.
Not only that, but it is full of striking metaphors and some realizations and generalizations that are really great. Take this paragraph about Levin (the character I probably like and sympathize with the most) in Chapter Fourteen:
"Levin had been married three months. He was happy but not at all in the same way as he had expected. At every step he found himself disillusioned in his former dreams while also discovering new, unexpected enchantments. Levin was happy, but on entering into family life he saw at every step that it was not at all what he had imagined. At every step he felt as a man might feel who, after admiring the smooth, cheerful motion of a boat on the water, actually gets into the boat himself. He saw that apart from having to sit steadily in the boar without rocking, he also had to keep in mind, without forgetting for a moment where he was going, that there was water beneath his feet, that he had to row, that his unaccustomed hands hurt, and that it was easy only when you looked at it, but that doing it, though it made you very happy, was very hard."