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Song Without Words: The Photographs & Diaries of Countess Sophia Tolstoy
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Song Without Words: The Photographs & Diaries of Countess Sophia Tolstoy

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  66 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Through never-before-seen photographs and intriguing personal diaries, this beautiful book provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of Countess Sophia Tolstoy and her husband, Leo Tolstoy—one of the greatest authors of all time—set against the grand and terrifying backdrop of aristocratic Russia on the brink of its demise.

Between 1885 and 1910, Countess Tolstoy made mo
Hardcover, 239 pages
Published September 18th 2007 by National Geographic
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May 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
this is a truly beautiful book. one of those, almost unbearably moving, that you only pull down in the middle of the night when it's cold and dark and still and hold at a distance so as not to stain the pages with tears...

the photos of lev tolstoy show a wild-eyed bearded stone-faced old coot: stern and distant and a bit mad. but one reads his books and stories and finds a man with, perhaps, a more tender and compassionate and complete understanding of humanity than any other writer... and then
Amber Vrenna
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredible book! It gives such an in-depth and artistic look into the lives of Tolstoy and his wife, Sophia/Sonya.
May 27, 2008 marked it as to-read
Shelves: grande-dames
Thank you for a lyrically beautiful review, brian.
Oct 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have a shameful (for a bookworm, anyway) confession to make: I've never read any of the big classics of the Russian heavyweights. Short stories by Gogol or Chekhov here and there, but that's about it. No Brothers Karamazov, no Gulag Archipelago, and definitely no War and Peace. Not even the relatively fluffy Doctor Zhivago. Is there a Russian phrase that means "lazy chickenshit"?

I picked up this, and other books about Leo and Sophia Tolstoy's marriage, after watching The Last Station a coupl
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful companion to the movie "The Last Station" about Tolstoy and Sophia. As a mother and photographer myself, I'm fascinated by women photographers from the Victorian age. Often they are upper class (they had to afford the equipment and have the leisure time) and middle aged (their children were older or grown so they had free time not devoted to motherhood). It's easy to dismiss them for taking portraits of family life or children, but the view through their lens is complex, imag ...more
Jun 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
The truth about the much maligned Sophia Tolstoy is finally written. Sophia's cause in life is to preserve everything that concerned Tolstoy's life and work, an incredibly capable and loving woman who pushes her own needs to the side in order to support and care for Tolstoy and his genius. She is a woman of incredible strength and foresight. Carl Sandburg's wife also considered caring for her husband's genius, while managing their home, family and farm, to be her primary work in life. While Soph ...more
Melanie  Hilliard
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What a refreshing take on a biography. It's sympathetic without inspiring your pity and it gives both the positives and negatives of being married to a cooky genius with strong beliefs (that clash with her own). This book is a jewel for anyone interested in photography and/or Russian literature (well that describes me to a tee anyway) and the lack of photographic evidence is always one of the difficulties I have in reading biographies, this book shows what great background photos can provide for ...more
Dec 28, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: skimmed
I had no great interest in the Tolstoys before skimming this book and developed none...the pictures are mainly self portraits or wedding anniversary photos of Sonya and Lev (Leo). He looks like a crabby old goat and they bickered and made each other unhappy for 48 years. What's to like?
May 24, 2008 marked it as to-read
I'm not sure what it is about Russia that I find so romantic, Dr. Zhivago doesn't end well, Mrs. Anna Karenenenenenena doesn't end well, and it is supposed to be mafia dominated and cold. Yet there is something very intriguing there.
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Parker gave me this book for Christmas. It is a fascinating look at Sophia Tolstoy's life, love and photography. It has really made me want to do more with my own personal history. It is so ahead of it's time, if you like to's amazing.
Aug 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Perfect pairing with the Sophia Tolstoy biography. A chance to see her photographs and read some of her diary entries.
Alethea Bothwell
Jan 10, 2016 rated it liked it
So, she wasn't the genius, but she was an amazing woman.
Sandra D
Mar 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia, authors
Fascinating photos.
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Apr 09, 2008
May 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Worth reviewing. Wait for me here.
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
this was so completely fascinating. beautiful book.
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Leah Bendavid-Val is a historian of photography who has worked with Russian photographers for more than two decades. She is the author most recently of Song Without Words: The Photographs & Diaries of Countess Sophia Tolstoy (published in October 2007). Her two earlier books about Russian photographers and themes are Propaganda & Dreams (1999); and Changing Reality (1991).

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