Love and Hatred: The Troubled Marriage of Leo & Sonya Tolstoy

Love and Hatred: The Troubled Marriage of Leo & Sonya Tolstoy

by William L. Shirer
     
 

A touching, brilliant, and groundbreaking biography of one of literary history's most famous couples, at once a dual biography, a history, and the portrait of a long and stormy marriage, William L. Shirer's new book - written in his ninth decade - explores the passionate, highly charged, and extraordinary lives of Leo and Sonya Tolstoy. It is a compelling illumination…  See more details below

Overview

A touching, brilliant, and groundbreaking biography of one of literary history's most famous couples, at once a dual biography, a history, and the portrait of a long and stormy marriage, William L. Shirer's new book - written in his ninth decade - explores the passionate, highly charged, and extraordinary lives of Leo and Sonya Tolstoy. It is a compelling illumination both of the nature of genius and of the universal problems of love, sex, and marriage - themes that Tolstoy played out in his great fiction and that haunted him in his tangled domestic life. Rich in anecdotes, wise, full of sweeping history, and imbued with Shirer's profound knowledge of literature and life, Love and Hatred ranks beside such works as Robert Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra and Nigel Nicolson's Portrait of a Marriage as a masterly, intuitive, and sympathetic exploration of the love/hate relationship between two famous, bigger-than-life people. Beginning in 1862, when Tolstoy committed the blunder of asking his young bride to read his diaries of his bachelor life so there should be no secrets between them, and ending with his tragic flight from home (and marriage) in 1910 while the whole world waited for news of him, Love and Hatred tells the story of a great romance between two people who could live neither together nor apart - a romance that exhausted and obsessed them both, and that forms the basis for much of Tolstoy's work. The final book of William L. Shirer's long and brilliant career, it is - appropriately - a masterly re-creation of a time, of two extraordinary people, and of the very nature of love, marriage, and old age.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1862, Leo Tolstoy found an ideal helpmate and business manager for his literary work in Sonya Behrs, whom he married at age 34 after years of dissipation. She was 18. Though he settled down on his estate, Yasnaya Polyana, became the father of 15 children and produced War and Peace and Anna Karenina , Tolstoy's religious ``conversion'' to his ascetic version of Christianity doomed the union, shows Shirer ( The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich ). Sonya saw sheer hypocrisy in her husband's continued aristocrat lifestyle and his preaching of sexual abstinence while he repeatedly made her pregnant. She confided to her diary her secret, obsessive love for chubby, effeminate pianist Sergei Taneyev. Vladimir Chertkov, Leo's devious, overbearing disciple, also abetted the couple's break-up, pressuring Tolstoy to leave his wife. Tolstoy finally fled Yasnaya Polyana in 1910 at age 82; he died of peneumonia 10 days later at an isolated railway station. Sonya outlived her husband by nine years. Occasionally quoting from Tolstoy's novels, Shirer draws on the diaries, letters and testimony of Leo, Sonya and their children and associates for this darkly magnificent dual portrait. Photos. (July)
Library Journal
In 1897 Tolstoy wrote his daughter Tonya, explaining his opposition to her desired marriage: "As far as love is concerned, it's an ignoble and unhealthy sentiment-I would not have opened my door to it." Perhaps this passage reflects the turbulent marriage of Leo and Sonya-first the promise of love and then disillusionment. Certainly, there was a love of sorts-their marriage lasted 48 years and brought forth 13 children-but the later half of the marriage was soured by acrimony, secrecy, and great emotional wounding. The greatest division came with the battle over the rights to Tolstoy's works. Sonya finally got sole possession, outliving Leo by nine years and plagued by the thought that she had been wrong for her genius husband. In intimate and scrupulous detail often drawn directly from Leo and Sonya's diaries, Shirer (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich) has profiled the disintegration of a marriage. Compelling reading from an exacting biographer; for interested lay readers. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/94.]-Robert L. Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., Ind.
Ron Antonucci
Seeking a little peace and quiet, Leo Tolstoy fled his country estate in October 1910, stealing away in the dark of night to escape his wife, Sonya, and a marriage he characterized as a struggle to the death. Days later, he lay dying in a small railway station at Astapovo, oblivious to the hysterical feuding of his wife and children and to the mob of journalists, adoring peasants, and Orthodox priests who hovered nearby. Shirer, best known for The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, mines the copious, often bizarre diaries of the Tolstoys to explore a marriage that was a passionate, lustful, bitter tug-of-war from the beginning. While most biographers have found the roots of the Tolstoys' marital difficulties in Leo's later religious crisis and his renunciation of worldly goods and pleasures, the diaries reveal intense unhappiness as early as the first months of their union. Using what Shirer calls a perverse form of communication, Tolstoy and his wife would intentionally place portions of their diaries bearing the most bitter criticisms of the other where each would be certain to find them. A fine work about a most unusual relationship.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780671881627
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
06/02/1994
Pages:
400

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