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Tolstoy: A Russian Life


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Tolstoy's War and Peace and Anna Karenina are considered two of the greatest novels ever written. Here is a fresh perspective on his extraordinary life and times

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Rosamund Bartlett's books include her acclaimed Chekhov: Scenes From a Life and her forthcoming new translation of Anna Karenina for Oxford World's Classics.


Rosamund Bartlett's new life of Tolstoy is a splendid book - immensely readable, full of fresh details, and often quite brilliant in its perceptiveness about the greatest of Russian writers, and one of the stars in the western firmament. This biography has the sweep and vividness of literature itself, and I strongly recommend it. -- Jay Parini, author of The Last Station
The extraordinary character of the giant is captured better by Bartlett than by any previous biographer...She is very good at expounding the novels and completely fair to all parties when the marriage turns into a battleground. Superbly well written -- A N Wilson * Spectator *
Superbly readable and, in contrast to some earlier biographies, treats the great novelist's sometimes strange enthusiasms and obsessions sympathetically and seriously. It also brilliantly traces how Tolstoy was read in the Soviet era, and how his depiction of simplicity and compassion attracted people in the face of state opposition and harassment -- Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury * Mail on Sunday Books of the Year *
highly accessible and intelligent... neat and illuminating...Bartlett's biography is worth tackling for four qualities alone. The first is her insight into the many contradictions of Tolstoy's character... Its second merit is the way Bartlett places Tolstoy in the much wider cultural context... The third great strength of Bartlett's biography is the weight she gives both to his philosophical writings, and to his social activism, which is a salutary corrective to those, including his Soviet critics, who concentrate on the great novels to the exclusion of all else... The fourth distinguishing feature, and a considerable one, is Bartlett's relatively sympathetic treatment of the women in Tolstoy's life... bonus throughout is Bartlett's pleasant, unimposing style -- Mary Dejevsky * Independent *
[it] conveys Tolstoy to me more vividly than any biography I have read. An academic and translator, Bartlett is steeped in Russia's language and history. At every stage of Tolstoy's life we feel ourselves in a gigantic presence...Bartlett never seems hurried and she gives herself time to paint the scene for us, bringing the scent of Russian earth and grass to the nostrils...she conveys a perfect balance between admiration for Tolstoy's art and respect for his life as a prophet...One of the excellences of the Bartlett biography is that she sees the necessity of taking the story into modern times. She follows the fate of the Russian Tolstoyans into the Stalinist era -- A N Wilson * FT *
In the centenary of Leo Tolstoy's death, it was a great pleasure to read Rosamund Bartlett's Tolstoy: A Russian accessible and scholarly biography of the troubled master of realist fiction which conjures the splendid image of him wobbling around on a bicycle -- Richard Godwin * Evening Standard Books of the Year *
engaging... In her revelations about the immense difficulties of producing the definitive Collected Works (a task that, under Soviet Communism, proved almost impossible) and in her elucidation of the suppression of Tolstoy's spiritual influence, Bartlett reminds us not only that the great man is not so very long dead, but also that his myth is being made and remade even now -- Claire Messud * Daily Telegraph *
a splendidly lucid and sympathetic biography -- Scotsman * Alan Massie *
Impressive * Independent on Sunday Books of the Year *

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