“Family Happiness” by Leo Tolstoy

In all his other novels I’ve read, Tolstoy was a third-person omniscient narrator, but here he used a first-person narrative as a young woman. Is it conceivable that Tolstoy, who was 31 when he wrote this, knew all the feelings and thoughts of a 17-year-old girl? I was incredulous, and only after many paragraphs into the story did I get used to the narrative.

It’s a beautiful story of the courtship and early married life of the young woman and a family friend who was 19 years her senior. I read it very slowly just so that I might see, through her eyes, how the scenery and music reflected her emotional state, how she perceived her husband and other people, and how she experienced life and happiness.

Whether she and her husband achieved family happiness is up to the interpretations and opinions of the readers, but Tolstoy certainly convinced me of his mastery of psychology.


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