The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte

Published: 2020 Harper Collins Setting: 1941 Russia Genre: Historical fiction 1. First lines. 2. Cover Harper Collins 3. Reading War and Peace. Image by Taymaz Valley [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr 4. Soldiers on guard in December 1941 to the west of Moscow By Wilhelm Gierse [CC BY 3.0] via Wikimedia
  • THE STORY:
    • Set in 1941 in Russia, this story takes place at Yasnaya Polyana, the former estate of author Leo Tolstoy, where a German field hospital was established during the invasion of Russia. Paul Bauer is a German surgeon who befriends the Russian caretaker Katerina Trubetzkay. Tension exists not only because of the wartime conditions, but also because of the erratic behaviour of the commanding officer.
  • QUOTES:
    • Paul Bauer, aged forty, an army surgeon, kept his eyes shut. The corporal’s concern for him was touching, but after twenty-six hours spent operating under canvas, followed by eleven more of sabotaged sleep – at first near an active artillery battery, then sitting in the cabin of a pitching lorry – he hardly cared whether he lived or died.”
    • ”On their fourth night at the estate Bauer slept even worse than usual, half aware he was cold but never quite cold enough to put clothes on over his underwear or to shut the window at the foot of his bed, which by agreement with Molineux he had left ajar. When he did sleep he dreamed – mazy epics of hiding and running and eventually of being buried alive. He woke early and sensed a weight on his legs, reached over his blankets and felt a layer of snow.”
  • MY THOUGHTS:
    • A very satisfying read for its descriptive writing and moving story. Descriptions of time and place bring 1940s Russia, its wartime scenes and winter landscape, to life. Using the setting of the former estate of Russian author, Tolstoy, the author has devised a moving story with themes of love, the humanity and inhumanity of wartime, and the impact on individual morals and emotions. Tolstoy’s novel, War and Peace, is discussed between the two main characters throughout the story, particularly how literature often has far-reaching historical significance. Highly recommended
  • BOOK REVIEWS:
    • Newtown Review of Books:The Tolstoy Estate is an intelligent blockbuster, a clever historical fiction and an illuminating novel. Conte’s writing is polished and the narrative flows in notable tracts – a sense of time and place is powerfully captured. The setting – the birthplace of War and Peace in wartime – is an inspired premise made for a novel, maybe also a movie, and the reading experience feels cinematic.”
    • Queensland Reviewers Collective: “Steven Conte’s book is rich in breath-taking and unforgettable ways.  There are the characters, the cruel Russian winter, the ghost of Tolstoy’s spirit and ideas touching life, death, friendship, art especially writing, war and politics.”
  • AUTHOR: Steven Conte
  • AWARDS: Shortlisted for the 2021 Walter Scott Scott Prize

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