Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch
I wanted to like this memoir more than I did, and I think some of my disappointments may have simply been from wanting this to be a different book than it was. The focus was very much on her life instead of the books she read, and, well, I didn’t find her life that intriguing, or her that likeable.
While I appreciated how Sankovitch tried to find threads in many of the books she read during her year of one book a day reading that related to stories about her sister, some of them felt forced or absurdly simplistic. It was also quite repetitive at times.
I was fairly appalled by how self-centered she appears to be as well – for an entire year, her highest priority is getting through her book a day and posting a review. Her sick children come across as an imposition. Their usual annual vacation is cut short so as to not interrupt her reading time. Her husband has to pick up extra slack at home to allow her to finish her books. That same husband has his own sister die, but Sankovitch is unable to go to the funeral, because she’s too upset. What about her husband, and his need for support? Not this year.
The book is well written, and Sankovitch does a great job of depicting her sister so that I feel like I know her a bit. She also doesn’t take an easy way out by reading fluff books, but unfortunately she seems to want to make sure you recognize just how intellectual she is with her reading. It’s rather off-putting, as are some of the trite lessons she learns from each book. It would have been better if she hadn’t tried quite so hard to find a lesson or connection to her sister in every book.
A disappointing read, and not one I recommend.
Caught up in grief after the death of her sister, Nina Sankovitch decided to stop running and start reading. For once in her life she would put all other obligations on hold and devote herself to reading a book a day: one year of magical reading in which she found joy, healing, and wisdom.
With grace and deep insight, Sankovitch weaves together poignant family memories with the unforgettable lives of the characters she reads about. She finds a lesson in each book, ultimately realizing the ability of a good story to console, inspire, and open our lives to new places and experiences. A moving story of recovery, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is also a resonant reminder of the all-encompassing power and delight of reading.
Title: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading
Author: Nina Sankovitch
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 2.5 Stars
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