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The Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy's Last Year

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  1,017 ratings  ·  176 reviews
As Leo Tolstoy's life draws to a tumultuous close, his tempestuous wife and most cunning disciple are locked in a whirlwind battle for the great man’s soul. Torn between his professed doctrine of poverty and chastity and the reality of his enormous wealth and thirteen children, Tolstoy dramatically flees his home, only to fall ill at a tiny nearby rail station. The famous ...more
Paperback, 372 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Canongate Books (first published 1990)
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Average rating 3.54  · 
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 ·  1,017 ratings  ·  176 reviews

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K.D. Absolutely
It's about the final years of Leo Tolstoy. These final years include the dispute on who should own the works (War and Peace, Anna Karenina, etc) and the riches of the famous Russian novelist: his wife or his minions who claim that his works belong to the people. The story of this final years is said to be one of the "saddest in literary world." And this adjective almost always make me run to the nearby bookstore and get myself a copy of the book. I am a sucker for saddest books.

This is indeed a
Was the book enjoyable? No. (Do you enjoy watching family brawls?)

Was it interesting? Yes, definitely!
You do laugh sometimes.

After reading this book I felt I better understood Leo Tolstoy and who he had become at the end of his life. If you are looking for an in-depth biography of his entire life, look elsewhere. This book only looks at the philosophy and thoughts central to this writer at the very end of his life, right before his death at 82. You look at the last chapter of his life. It is ab
Oct 03, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Huge disappointment, especially because the subject - Tolstoy - is himself the author of one of my favorite novels. However this book is so dull that I couldn't wait for the old geezer to kick the bucket so I could get on to something better. Parini calls his book is a novel, but it's more like a documentary: the characters are flat and there is little narrative pace. The point of view shifts from one character to another as we look into the "diaries" of each one, but they all speak in the same ...more
Menna Elmanzalawy
This novel tells the story of life at Yasnaya Polyana during the last year of Leo Tolstoy's life. Surrounded by his children, secretary, hysterical wife, and disciples that idolize him, we catch a glimpse of a very stressful time of the writer's long life. The chapters are cleverly told from the points of view of different members of Tolstoy's inner circle, and you can't help but sympathize to some extent with every character -- no matter how badly they are portrayed from the POV of another char ...more
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: tbr-already-own
This is supposedly about Leo Tolstoy’s final year, told from the perspective of his secretary, wife, daughter, doctor, the milkman etc. But really it is just them lot bitching about each other. No one is likeable and there’s not enough about Tolstoy himself. I’ve made it about 75% through but I’m done. (Gonna watch the film instead 😉)
Roger Brunyate
The Passing of a Lion

I bought this book after seeing a trailer for the new movie starring Christopher Plummer as Leo Tolstoy in the final year of his life and Helen Mirren as his embattled wife. It was immediately clear that these were fine roles for two great actors; was the movie based on an equally great book?

In some ways, it did not need to be, for the greatness was already there in Tolstoy's writings and example. In the second part of his life, following the inclinations of his own Levin in
Jennifer (JC-S)
Jan 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: librarybooks
This novel is based on the last year of Leo Tolstoy's life. By combining fact an fiction, Jay Parini provides both an interesting novel and an interpretation of a fascinating man. I doubt that I'll watch the movie: Mr Parini's imagery is all the visual interpretation I need. ...more
GUD Magazine
Dec 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Parini's The Last Station is a study of the end of Russian author Leo Tolstoy's life. You don't need to be a fan of Tolstoy to enjoy it--you don't even need to have read any of his novels. This book stands on its own merits.

Told in multiple first person narratives, the book explores how the various players see themselves and each other, enabling the reader to make up their own mind about their characters and motives. Personally, I came to like Tolstoy's long-suffering wife Sofya Andreyevna the b
Jan 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This little Novel about the last year of Tolstoy's life is certainly worth the read.

Told from multiple perspectives the plot revolves around the coflict between Tolstoy's wife and his disciples over the great author's legacy and the copyright to his works.

Depending on whose point of view strikes you as most accurate, Tolstoy is either a great man fighting his flaws, a misguided extremist failing to accept his humanity, or a hero who, despite his flaws, stands for values that we should all cher
James Henderson
This is a wonderful evocation of Tolstoy's last days, the people surrounding him and the aura created by the event. He was considered not only Russia's greatest living writer, but a powerful religious figure---more revered and beloved than the Tsar. Disciples sought him out on almost a daily basis, yet Tolstoy himself was torn between his aspirations to religious asceticism and his enormous wealth.

Parini captures all the excitement and intrigue of the last days for this literary icon wealthy man
Andrew Darling
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In a secondhand bookshop in Naples, Jay Parini (novelist, poet, biographer, scholar) chanced upon the diary of Valentin Bulgakov, Tolstoy's secretary during the final year of the great man's life. Parini subsequently discovered that diaries were also kept (and later published) by numerous other members of Tolstoy's circle. From these, he has crafted a magnificent fictionalised account of the events which led up to Tolstoy abandoning his wife and his home, and to end up dying in a railway station ...more
Czarny Pies
Oct 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Tolstoy fans.
Recommended to Czarny by: My wife
The Last Station which examines the personal conflicts in the household of Leo Tolstoy is the fruit of a simple brilliant idea by Jay Parini. Leo Tolstoy was at the end of his life the most famous writer of his time and an extremely rich man. He was surrounded by group of ruthless friends and equally ruthless family members who all wanted a piece of him and his fortune. Everyone in the circle wrote well and kept diaries. Parini takes the stories from these diaries to compose a single cogent narr ...more
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
The story of Tolstoy's running away from home at the end of his life is well known. This particular version has been made into a movie with award-winning stars, so I was curious . . . and disappointed. First of all, I was slightly annoyed that the main character was called Leo Nicholaevich rather than the Russian Lev Nicholaevich. Secondly, it is difficult to understand Lev and Sofia's alleged estrangement unless you know a lot more about their backgrounds, their marriage, and their personalitie ...more
Nancy Chappell
Jan 01, 2014 rated it liked it
I loved the movie but probably should have read this first. Intrigued by Tolstoy and his wife, tho the end of their 50 year marriage was fraught with anger, hurt, disappointment (to say the least). Ah...famous men... certainly leave behind frustrated and lonely wives. It was interesting that the author read diaries of all the main characters and gave us their varied views of often the same incident.
May 20, 2010 rated it liked it
I had high hopes for this book as the cover quotes Gore Vidal saying,"One of the best historical novels written in the last twenty years." However, every characater in the book had at least two different Russian names, so I was halfway through before figuring out who was who! Well written but not satisfying. ...more
Lauren Albert
Jun 10, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The characters in The Last Station were characters, not people. They just weren't believable to me as people. At times they seemed more like caricatures. ...more
Aug 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I'm torn between 4 and 5 stars. What a beautiful read. ...more
Kathleen Vickers
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up in the airport as I had forgotten my Kindle. I was only drawn to it as I had seen the movie last year. I knew very little about Tolstoy except that he was Russian and wrote War and Peace which is a VERY long book. If you have an interest in history and literature this book is recommended. The story is about Tolstoy’s final months and his struggle to please his many followers but also pacify his wife Sophia, who fears that he will disinherit his family on his death. It is ex ...more
Jan 18, 2021 rated it liked it
I liked reading about Tolstoy's last days, it's intriguing, worrisome and it got me wanting to read more about his life. I can tell it's a well researched fictional account but I just don't like Jay Parini's writing style. Perhaps it was the translation that put me off? ...more
Fran Calloway
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting story of Leo Tolstoy's last year of life basically centering on the marital strife with his wife, Sonya, while dealing with his impending death. There were occasional philosophical ramblings which I found difficult to muddle through, but, that being said, it was an pleasurable read. ...more
watched the film-The book is next on my list:
Film Review
In THE LAST STATION, set in pre-Revolutionary Russia, in the year 1910, Valentin, JAMES MCEVOY, a young man who almost worships the aged writer, Tolstoy, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, is hired by Chertkov, PAUL GIAMATTI, to be the great man's secretary and, at the same time, to spy on his wife, Countess Sofya, HELEN MIRREN...

Valentin discovers that, in the commune where Tolstoy's disciples live in social equality as celibate vegetarians, life is not
Steven Clark
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
i've enjoyed Parini's works, and read his historical novel about Herman Melville, deciding it was time to read this. It's a story of Tolstoy, who was a superstar in his era. I've read some of his works, spent an entire week on Christmas break reading War and Peace from sunrise to bedtime, and loved it. I also like his short stories, but wasn't that much into Anna Karenina.
This novel is about Tolstoy the fading lion, and he has his pride with him. Sofya, his wife, Chertkov, his sons and daughter
Mar 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books
2007 bookcrossing journal:

This is a fictionalised account of the last year of Tolstoy's life, told from the perspective of various characters who were close to him: his wife, agent, secretary, doctor and children. It's based on biographies, diaries etc, but obviously this is Parini's interpretation of all of that.

I know essentially nothing about Tolstoy. The closest I've got to his books is watching the Audrey Hepburn film War and Peace. So in some ways I probably missed a lot in this book. Mayb
Nurul Nadzirin
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I had my reservations the first tens of pages of this,; it being a collection of diary entries which could be really tedious (e.g. Orhan Pamuk's 'Red'). However soon it began to be coherent, and even more, very dynamic where one can first form an opinion based on something written by Bulgakov, for example, and then read another point of view of the same thing from Chertkov's perspective. I thought Sonya's monologues were especially interesting; you learn to see how her selfishness and cruelty de ...more
Feb 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
The book is narrated by each of the people closest to Tolstoy in his final year, by alternating chapters.

Sofya Andreyevna - his wife for nearly 50 years - to me had the loudest voice. She was an extremely complex character and not someone that I liked at all. She was paranoid, neurotic and extremely jealous of all the people surrounding Tolstoy. She was constantly trying to find out what he'd written about her; she wanted to read his diaries and letters. They even sent letters to each other, eve
Nov 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve seen The Last Station criticised because it focuses on Sofya, Tolstoy's wife. I really can’t see how it could do otherwise. She’s by far the most interesting character. It’s she that turns this from an engrossing piece of academia into a real page-turner. Sofya’s mood swings are extreme, the whole gamut from empress to madwoman. A number of other reviewers have noted that The Last Station is a film script masquerading as a novel and I can’t disagree. My main problem with it is that you real ...more
Dec 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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, T ...more
Apr 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical-novel
Tolstoy is a name many of us recognize, even if we've not read anything by this Russian author. His works are still the fodder of literature classes and political pendants. I know very little about the man, his work, or his times so when I saw The Last Station, A Novel of Tolstoy's Last Year, I thought I'd give it a try. Historical novels, such as this one, weave facts with fiction and in the Afterward to this book the author, Jay Parini, points out where his inspiration and fabrications origina ...more
Elliot Ratzman
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent film is based on this interesting novel. During Tolstoy’s last year, apparently everyone is writing letters and scribbling in diaries because we have a rich detailed account of Tolstoy’s troubles. By 1910, the eighty-something Tolstoy is one of the most celebrated novelists in the world. He has abandoned fiction to agitate for a moralistic Christian life outside of the Russian Orthodox Church. He advocates radical social equality, vegetarianism, non-violence and a veneration of the ...more
Pamela Carey
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it
This novel, written by a prolific professor, is an example of a new genre known as the "biographical novel." Parini took the notes and books written by and about Tolstoy and created a novel about his last year, when Tolstoy was torn between his wife of 48 years (trying to protect her 13 children's assets in copyrights, etc.) and his disciple and friend, Chertkov. We also witness Tolstoy's inner turmoil as he wrestled with his renunciation of family wealth and sex, his wife's attachment to materi ...more
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Jay Parini (born 1948) is an American writer and academic. He is known for novels and poetry, biography and criticism.

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