Dec 22, 10
Read in November, 2010
I seldom read a book after I have seen the film. In this case, though I am a Parini fan, for some reason I skipped the book when it came out. Once I saw the film, I was even less inclined as I found it flat and too involved with the lovelife of the minor character narrator, Tolstoy's young secretary. I found the choice of narrator even more perplexing now that I have read the book, as its multiple narrators offered much better choices. The book successfully depicts the conflict beween Chertov, Tolstoy's confidant and the spearhead of supporters--both the idealistic and the sycophant--and the Countess Tolstoy and explicates more clearly Tolstoy's own multiple personal demons and conflicts. Having visited Yasnaya Polyana several times, I can attest to the accuracy of its portrayal--the beauty and isolation. The shifting narrator allows the story to be told from multiple (all flawed) perspectives and keeps the reader engrossed. Tolstoy's last days in the railway station Atapovna are beautifully rendered. The only criticism I have of the book is that the problem inherent in multiple narrator fiction occasionally appears when it is difficult to keep track of who is speaking as some of the characters sound so much alike. Anyone interested in the other part of the story should read Ellen's Feinstin's new biography of Sophie Tolstoy, which utilizes the recently released long suppressed journals and autobiography of the Countess. And if you want further corroboration, see The New Yorker's recent reissue of an article written in 1891 by a visitor to Yasnaya Polyana.