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A Reader of Fictions: Kreutzer Sonata - Beethoven

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kreutzer Sonata - Beethoven

A Russian Life

Author: Rosamund Bartlett
Pages: 454 (plus a hundred or so more in notes/bibliography)
ARC Acquired from:

As a history major in undergrad, I have some familiarity with history books such as this one. Many of them are painfully dry and dishearteningly long. Thankfully, since I was reading this for fun and not with the threat of a test to push me through, Bartlett's tome, while long (which is to be expected given the subject matter), proved to be pretty readable.

That is not to say, of course, that it was a speedy read. It was not, at least not for me. However, Bartlett is a good writer and she conveyed information in a logical order, something one does not always find in such books. Plus, Tolstoy's a pretty interesting guy to read about, even if he was a bit of a jerk (ex. his treatment of his wife, who was pregnant all the time from their marriage until she pretty much couldn't have kids anymore). Did you know his belief in nonviolent resistance was an inspiration to Gandhi? And that he was a huge proponent of vegetarianism?

Looking at this in terms of how useful it would be for a paper, I would give it pretty high marks, since, as previously mentioned, it is both well-written and a wealth of information. The one drawback I see is the construction of the chapters, many of which cover a couple different aspects of his life. For example, one chapter is entitled "Student, Teacher, Father" and another is "Landowner, Gambler, Officer, Writer." Honestly, I think it would have been better to break these up into their own chapters, since there tended to be a pretty obvious switch from one of the subjects to the next. This would serve two purposes: shortening the chapters and making it easier to locate what you're looking for in the text. Really long chapters are both depressing to a student and make it really hard to go back and locate that one quote that is crucial to proving your thesis.

Despite that, I would consider this a pretty awesome choice for your learning-about-Tolstoy needs, be they self-motivated or required for class.

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