The Last Station: Jay Parini

From the tragic love of Anna Karenina to the marshalling of almost 600 characters in War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy’s mastery of fiction is undisputed. Which makes it even more devastating that the final years of his life should have descended into an almost comical farce as Tolstoy embraced pacifism, vegetarianism and celibacy (no mean feat for a man who proudly recorded the innumerable sexual conquests of his youth).

Parini’s finely realised historical novel is based on the many surviving diaries, letters and accounts of those who stayed close to the Count in his final days: his adoring daughter Sasha, his youthful secretary Valentin, and the various followers of the philosophy Tolstoyism, which saw the writer revered as a Christ-like figure. The thrust of the novel, however, comes from the volatile relationship between Tolstoy and his long-suffering wife Sonya. Parini cleverly captures the intricacies of this larger-than-life couple, while revealing in both a genuine vulnerability.

Reissued to coincide with the movie release, The Last Station celebrates a great writer while exploring the inherent interior struggles of such an astonishing mind.