Friday, August 7, 2009

Review: "Family Happiness" by Leo Tolstoy

I can't believe that the summer is flying by so quickly- it seems like just yesterday the kids were elated that summer vacation was starting and here we are- August! I've been reading like a fiend; at parks, in the backyard, etc., and I finally have a chance to catch up with my blogging (which means that I have one child napping, and two on the couch watching "Treehouse TV"- how long that will last, no one knows...)

I recently finished Leo Tolstoy's "Family Happiness" for the HarperCollins Canada summer reading challenge. It is a collection of a few of Tolstoy's short stories, and it is perfect reading for the summer, given that each story is short enough to read in a sitting or two. The first story in the collection is obvious, "Family Happiness". It follows the courtship and marriage of Mashechka and Sergey Mikhaylych from the beginning; from when the first flush of love surrounds everything they do, to the birth of their children, until they must make individual realizations about their relationship and how it has changed. Essentially it is the story of the death of romance and the bloom of long-term love. The second story, "Master and Man" follows Vasili Andreevich Brekhunov and his servant Nikita as they make an ill-fated journey to aquire more land for the wealthy Brekhunov. The final Tolstoy story, "Alyosha The Pot" is a very short story about Alyosha, a servant to a family wealthier than his own, and what happens when he falls in love with the orphaned cook of the house. As a bonus, HarperCollins has included a short story at the end of the book by Holly Goddard Jones, the author of the upcoming short story book "Girl Trouble".

Despite the fact that he has penned several classics, I have never read anything by Leo Tolstoy and I found him to be quite enlightening. His stories were simple and often straight to the point, but they were like fables in the sense that every story had an underlying message. My favourite of the three Tolstoy stories would have to be "Family Happiness" because the point is valid even today. Often relationships begin with romance and flowers and butterflies in the stomach, and in today's society people tend to throw these blossoming relationships away when the romance part dies. What these people don't realize is that when the romance is gone something even better is left behind- love that has weathered the test of time. I enjoyed the story by Holly Goddard Jones at the end of the book as well- it has intrigued me enough to want to pick up her upcoming collection of short stories, although I don't usually read a lot of short stories myself.

This entry marks my completion of the HarperCollins summer reading challenge and I'm interested to know: Are you participating? (It's not too late- you have until the end of the summer!) If you are, which books are you reading? I know that Luanne over at A Bookworm's World is participating- she recently reviewed Neil Gaiman's "Fragile Things" for the challenge.

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