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Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography

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4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  116 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
Based on a cache of new, original sources, Alexandra Popoff debunks the common perception that Sophia Tolstoy was a bitter, unsupportive wife.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by Free Press (first published 2010)
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Quirkyreader
Aug 17, 2016 Quirkyreader rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a good introduction to the wives of famous Russian writers. I had already read more in depth biographies about many of the people mentioned in this book. So, for a person unfamiliar with Russian writing they can get a taste and possibly go onto other books and learn more.
Linda
Jun 29, 2015 Linda rated it really liked it
This made me so angry at a dead guy, like you don't even know.
False Millennium
Dec 04, 2012 False Millennium rated it really liked it
I've read a great deal about Tolstoy and his family, especially his troubled relationship with his wife, and this ongoing battle to be near the "Master" by his acolytes. He made his family's life a living hell with his egomania and poor decisions. I have special ordered on loan a copy of Countess Tolstoy's "My Life" which wasn't quite yet printed (and has been surpressed since it was written, leaving Sophia with black marks against her life as some controlling, vengeful creature who didn't honor ...more
Louise
Nov 27, 2012 Louise rated it it was amazing
The "The Last Station", portraying Tolstoy's last days when his wife Sophia learned of his secret will leaving his copyrights to the Russian people, piqued my interest in Tolstoy. Only so much can be shown in a film and what was missing was the background that underpinned Tolstoy's decision. In this book, Alexandra Popoff, though reconstructing Sophia's life, provided the information and insight I was seeking.

Popoff shows Tolstoy's beliefs to have a Christian foundation and that they were lifelo
...more
Paige
Apr 09, 2016 Paige rated it liked it
This was super fascinating to read. I've loved Tolstoy's work but I really hadn't done any homework concerning his context or background. So it was nice to get that peripherally in this book while focusing on this amazing woman. Reading about her life made me feel like I've had a very easy life and that I'm a very lazy person. She was so diligent and went through so much, it was fascinating to learn about all the ins and outs of being married to a literary genius at the turn of the century. Also ...more
Karen
Jan 22, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
"Fear of madness is so great that I cannot overcome it. Such personalities as mine, which cannot be broken by physical strain, break down mentally." "I believe that there are obligations which are ordained by God, that no one has the right to deny them, and that these obligations actually promote, rather than hinder, the spiritual life." She believed looking after one's family was a godly responsibility. "There are always plenty of opportunities for grief in our life. The question is whether we ...more
Heather
Jul 07, 2011 Heather rated it it was amazing
I saw this on heavy discount at a going-out-of-business Borders store - I'm always a sucker for biographies (picked up 2 others at same time). I was glancing through at the pictures and got caught up reading a little, liking the style of the book itself and finding Sophia to be quite interesting. So instead of putting this on the shelf for an "after I finish my yoga teacher certification" reward, it became my "escape from reading only about yoga", bedtime book.

I found this book to be, in the wor
...more
Nikki
Jun 06, 2010 Nikki rated it it was amazing
Leo Tolstoy is, without comparison, my favorite fiction writer. I had heard the story of his death...that his wife was giving the government documents about him...that he left her and collapsed, dead, in a train station trying to flee. Well, apparently there's a little more too it, as I discovered by reading this biography of his wife.

The truth is that she was married (48 years) to a man who was a talented artist but also a radical. After studying the Gospels he developed his own religious view
...more
Rwildfon
Jun 18, 2010 Rwildfon rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating read having just finished Alexandra Tolstoy's book + seeing the movie, "The Last Station" which is about the last days of Tolstoy's life. I was so glad to see that someone researched Sophia's life. The old saying: "Behind every great man is a great woman" was true for this couple. While Tolstoy was writing, she was rewriting every word for publication, then publishing those words, giving birth to his 16 children, cooking, sewing, teaching, planting, and writing her own ...more
Amandalynn
Jan 30, 2011 Amandalynn rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I got turned onto reading this after watching The Last Station(which I had to watch after I had finished listening to Anna Karenina). Tolstoy would have been fascinating to have met and to be married to him would have been a whole other issue. I really enjoyed reading this and my heart went out to Sophia, her life was not an easy one yet better than a lot of Russians. Their love for each other is so layered and complicated but so pure and unbreakable. To have lived with a man as interestingly ...more
Karen
Sep 06, 2010 Karen rated it really liked it
This book, drawing for the first time from recently released information and documents that show this often misunderstood woman, gives a more balanced look into the life of two powerful, well-matched people who loved and warren in equal measure. I finally understood Sophia's position and realized the difficulty of living with the iconic figure who valued ideology above all else. On the negative side, I didn't find the threw line that marks a biography as exceptional0--the prism through which one ...more
Cyndi Dionigi-Huffman
This book made me so sad. Of course, everyone reveres Tolstoy, the great author. I didn't know that he had charmed a virginal gem of a brilliant woman into marrying him, then used and abused her all of her life -- and like any person caught in the cycle of abuse, she kept going back to him. She sacrificed her career and her life for him, and without her, little of his best work would remain the the public realm. Read it, and you'll see how amazing she was, although the book seems to be repeating ...more
PennsyLady (Bev)
Jan 25, 2016 PennsyLady (Bev) rated it it was amazing
Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography
by Alexandra Popoff (2010)

Drawn on newly available archival material, including Sophia’s unpublished memoir.


An exceptional biography defining Sophia's role in Tolstoy's legacy.
Wife, mother, editor, archivist, publisher, businesswoman, intellectual...and so much more.

Maligned by Tolstoy's acolyates, we meet a remarkably passionate woman
and experience her perspective , her joy and despair in being married to
a literary genius (great and volatile).

It was an uncomplicated r
...more
rose
Jan 14, 2013 rose rated it really liked it
Sophia Tolstoy from her wedding night until the day Leo Tolstoy died had a blind love for his genius to a high tolerance for his faults. And faults he had in an abundance. Popoff gives an even view of the highs and lows of Sophia's life who often got a bum rap in other biographies. High praise for this book.

Jodi
Oct 27, 2014 Jodi rated it really liked it
This is an important book for anyone who appreciates Tolstoy's works. Without Sophia, we might not have had War and Peace or Anna Karenina. However, Tolstoy's genius cost his wife dearly, both in her reputation and her own personal interests. She's became one of the most maligned figures in literary history. This book makes no secret of telling Tolstoy's story from Sophia's point of view.
Daniela Romo
Jun 27, 2010 Daniela Romo rated it did not like it
If you like a very historically detailed account about the depressing life of a famous author's wife, then this may be for you. This book just really isn't all that great. Maybe if this had been told by Sophia's first person point of view instead of written like a history book, it would have been better.
K C
Mar 01, 2012 K C rated it it was ok
Very disappointing. Fascinating subject drily presented. Chronologically presented letter and diary excerpts became tedious with little context or analysis so that the banal was mixed in with the significant. That's how life is, but I expect more from a well written biography.
Suzie
Jan 15, 2011 Suzie marked it as to-read
One of the reasons I hesitate to read and sing the praises of Leo Tolstoy's work is that I know that it came out of great sacrifice on the part of his wife. People don't give Sophia a fair shake. I want to hear her side of the story first.
Amy
Aug 18, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it
Quite the amazing story. I knew little about the Tolstoys until I read Jay Parini's The Last Station, and then I wanted to know more. Further thoughts here.
Galina
Jun 17, 2010 Galina rated it it was amazing
I think it is about time we find out more about Sophia Tolstoy and her relationship with Lev. She and Lev had an incredibly special friendship and marriage.
Jeffrey
Apr 11, 2013 Jeffrey rated it really liked it
Great book, if a little slight. Great information, fascinating read, but can't help thinking it lacks some detail. The book could have easily gone on another couple hundred pages.
Denise
Mar 24, 2011 Denise rated it really liked it
Well written, if occasionally dry, this biography of the very misunderstood, and much maligned wife of Leo Tolstoy is a must read for anyone who loves Russian literature.
Sally
Jul 07, 2010 Sally rated it really liked it
Interesting, especially since the author says that Tolstoy used much of his life with Sophia as inspiration for "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina".
Meghann
Meghann rated it really liked it
Apr 25, 2011
Kathy
Kathy rated it really liked it
Sep 22, 2013
Jilltowers
Jilltowers rated it really liked it
Oct 24, 2015
Linda
Linda rated it it was amazing
Jun 23, 2016
MB
MB rated it liked it
Jun 06, 2014
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ALEXANDRA POPOFF is the author of literary biographies SOPHIA TOLSTOY, THE WIVES (a best WSJ non-fiction title for 2012), and of TOLSTOY'S FALSE DISCIPLE, which tells a story of Leo Tolstoy's clandestine relationship with his disciple and moral opposite, Vladimir Chertkov.

POPOFF's current project is a biography of the twentieth-century major dissident writer, Vasily Grossman.
More about Alexandra Popoff...

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