For Father’s Day, I received several novellas by Leo Tolstoy and Henry James so I’ll probably be reading them here and there over the next few months. Tolstoy’s Family Happiness is the first one I’ve read. I admit that I didn’t like this story as well as some of Tolstoy’s other short works or his not-so-short War and Peace, but it does have a certain charm and appeal.
There is an idea that a marriage starts out with a romantic, warm fuzzy kind of love that ultimately goes deeper when the couple really gets to know each other. This concept can just as easily be applied in a slight variation to any kind relationship such as friendship or family. Tolstoy chooses to illustrate this concept with the marriage of Marya and Sergey. At first, they live on Sergey’s family farm with the Russian countryside seeming to compliment there ideal love for each other. However, after a while, Marya starts to dream of the city and they’re off to St. Petersburg. While she becomes the “belle of the ball” in the high society of the city, Sergey fades into the background. This is where the real “getting to know each other” starts.
Marya and Sergey are decent characters for the story; however, I would have to say that Tolstoy’s marriage “idea” takes center stage and is a more developed character to the story than the couple. His description of the rolling hills of the Russian farm captured my attention more than the marriage.
Another interesting fact to note: according to the “About the Author” foreword in my edition, in 1910, at the age of 82, Tolstoy abandoned his wife to live somewhere else. He became sick and died at the train station. A good biography of Tolstoy might be worth reading someday.