Thursday, October 10, 2013

Family Happiness by Leo Tolstoy

When I first got  a kindle I went crazy buying those 1.99 classics collections. So I have every book by Leo Tolstoy in one large file. It may be excluding a few very unknown stories. I don't really know or care. Basically the point is that I've had the opportunity to read any of his works for quite some time, but haven't had any interest until recently. I watched a film on Netflix which made me want to read this particular book. Cheerful Weather for the Wedding was the film I watched. It's not particularly an inspiring film. But the main character had a copy of Family Happiness that you could tell she had read many times. So I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm not sure what I expected. I can only tell you that I didn't get it.

I loved the book. Being Tolstoy and all I should probably have expected better than I did. Anna Karenina is a masterpiece. Doesn't matter if I hate the characters, it inspires real feelings in me. I also have a great deal of fun trying to pronounce all the Russian names. Often times I make up a pronunciation that is slightly hilarious and just stick with it. Needless to say foreign languages of any kind have never been a strong suit of mine. The book itself only took me a couple of hours to read, but I really started to bond with the characters. 

It's about a girl on the verge of womanhood who become orphaned of a sort right before she is to come into society. She never gets any great life experience before she falls madly, deeply in love with her husband to be. Everything is wonderful, that is, until she meets society for the first time. There is a deep seeded disdain in the book for the frivolity of the upper class social scene. This feel can easily be traced through to other Tolstoy novels I've read. The experiences that this woman has in society puts great strain on the marriage and changes everything. Once she gives up society she lives with hopes that she can repair and regain the marriage that she had before. When she learns that she will never get that back, she also learns what Family Happiness really is. It's being content with where you are, and living your life for those around you instead of yourself. It's settling down into routine and peacefulness. Apparently it is also giving up all feelings of romance as well. 

Nick and I have read many books about marriage and what to expect after that has happened and a few years have gone by. Gary Chapman calls the first two years the honeymoon phase and then after that everything changes. And not always for the better. I can liken the idea that I was given from Chapman with this book. Once the honeymoon phase is over, you'll have to create a different rhythm to live by. I so wanted the story to end differently than it did. Hopeless romanticism. Really though, if it had ended any other way it wouldn't have been true to reality. Maybe I'll come back and read it again in a few years. Only then I may be more willing to accept what it really means? 

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