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

Williams Shirer, Author
Williams Shirer, Author Simon & Schuster $24.5 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-88162-7
Reviewed on: 07/04/1994
Release date: 07/01/1994
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-4165-6750-9
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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)
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