Monday 24 August 2020

Book Review: Lives and Deaths by Tolstoy (Classics)

Title: Lives and Deaths
Author: Tolstoy
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Publication Date: 28 November 2020
eBook - PDF
Source: ARC via NetGalley

Tolstoy’s stories contain many of the most acutely observed moments in his monumental body of work. This new selection of his shorter works, sensitively translated by the award-winning Boris Dralyuk, showcases the peerless economy with which Tolstoy could render the passions and conflicts of a life.

These are works that take us from a self-interested judge’s agonising deathbed to the bristling social world of horses in a stable yard, from the joyful vanity of youth to the painful doubts of sickness and old age. With unwavering precision, Tolstoy’s eye brings clarity and richness to the simplest materials.


If you are looking for a light-hearted read to lift your mood, Lives and Deaths by Tolstoy is not the direction in which I'd point you. As the title suggests, death plays a major part in all four stories included in this volume, so it's far from a merry read. If, however, you enjoy Tolstoy's writing, you shouldn't pass by this selection of shorter pieces, which prove he is as adept at a concise narrative as he is at a lengthy tome. All the stories are beautifully written, and the translation flows smoothly. There is much to ponder here and much to enjoy. The opening piece is a fascinating character study, entering the world of horses offers a wonderful change of pace, and Three Deaths is short but compelling. My favourite, though, was Aloysha the Pot, which was still deep and sad but a little lighter than the others.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 


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