The Tolstoy Estate

    • 3.9 • 48 Ratings
    • $9.99
    • $9.99

Publisher Description

Epic in scope, ambitious and astonishingly good, The Tolstoy Estate proclaims Steven Conte as one of Australia's finest writers.

From the winner of the inaugural Prime Minister's Literary Award, Steven Conte, comes a powerful, densely rich and deeply affecting novel of love, war and literature

'Grave, moving, engaging ... full of the flash and fire of dramatic incident, but also full of real feeling, humour and poignancy, and equipped with plenty of panache ... It deserves the widest possible readership.' The Saturday Paper

In the first year of the doomed German invasion of Russia in WWII, a German military doctor, Paul Bauer, is assigned to establish a field hospital at Yasnaya Polyana - the former grand estate of Count Leo Tolstoy, the author of the classic War and Peace. There he encounters a hostile aristocratic Russian woman, Katerina Trubetzkaya, a writer who has been left in charge of the estate. But even as a tentative friendship develops between them, Bauer's hostile and arrogant commanding officer, Julius Metz, becomes erratic and unhinged as the war turns against the Germans. Over the course of six weeks, in the terrible winter of 1941, everything starts to unravel...

From the critically acclaimed and award-winning author, Steven Conte, The Tolstoy Estate is ambitious, accomplished and astonishingly good: an engrossing, intense and compelling exploration of the horror and brutality of conflict, and the moral, emotional, physical and intellectual limits that people reach in war time. It is also a poignant, bittersweet love story - and, most movingly, a novel that explores the notion that literature can still be a potent force for good in our world.

Shortlisted for the 2021 Walter Scott Prize

Shortlisted for the Age Book of the Year Award 2021

Longlisted for the 2021 ARA Historical Novel Prize

Longlisted for the 2021 Colin Roderick Award Longlist

Longlisted for the 2021 Indie Book Awards

'Breathtaking ... an intelligent cinematic blockbuster. celebrating the power of literature to dissolve barriers and forge connections.' The West Australian

'Reading a book that is such a complete world, evoked in such fine detail, is almost wickedly satisfying ... Elegant, intelligent, utterly engrossing and immersive ... He reminds us that travel is always possible in the imagination even when reality goes dark and that literature always leads us towards the light.' Caroline Baum

'Steven Conte has written a sweeping historical saga spanning the second world WAR and the frigid decades of PEACE that followed; an essential novel about essential things - love's triumphs and failures, the redoubtable human spirit, and the power of literary art itself. Tolstoy, of course, is at the novel's heart, and in its very soul.' Luke Slattery, author, journalist, Books Editor of Australian Financial Review

'A riveting story of war, love and literature - Conte's prose does not miss a beat.' Jane Gleeson-White, award-winning author of Classics and Double Entry

GENRE
Fiction & Literature
RELEASED
2020
1 September
LANGUAGE
EN
English
LENGTH
416
Pages
PUBLISHER
4th Estate
SELLER
HarperCollins Australia Pty Limited
SIZE
1.3
MB

Customer Reviews

rhitc ,

Winter is coming

Author
Australian. His first novel The Zookeeper’s War (2007) about the head honcho at Berlin zoo and his Aussie wife tried to look after the animals during WW2, won the inaugural Prime Minister’s Literary Award. The first 100 pages didn’t do much for me so I gave it away, but I liked The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017) by Diane Ackerman, and I like Tolstoy so I thought, what the hell? Might as well give this one a go.

Plot
Heading into winter 1941, with Operation Barbarossa underway, a Wehrmacht medical unit sets up a field hospital at Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy’s old estate, which is 12 km from Tula, the place where the Russians and the weather eventually stopped the German advance towards Moscow.
As George R R Martin later foretold, “winter is coming,” and as Jeff Goldblum so eloquently put it in The Fly, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
But I digress.
Tolstoy, a rival of George R R in the word count stakes, had a thing or two (1200 odd pages worth in fact) to say about Napoleon’s effort to crack Moscow back in the day. The krauts now think it apposite that they should use the old boy’s digs as a stepping stone towards the prize a couple of hundred years on. It turned out they were wrong. (For the record, the Frenchie with one hand inside his coat actually made it to Moscow, if only briefly.)
Anyway, a relationship develops between a sane, and humane, German doc (Paul Bauer) and a Bolshie (in every sense of the word) chick named Katerina Trubetzkaya, who is in charge of Yasnaya Polyana. No funny business or anything, a relationship based on mutual respect. (Remember them?) Our boy is captured, survives the Gulag and eventually makes it home and gets on with life. Our gal’s novels become quite popular in certain circles (one of Stalin’s nooses not among them luckily), and she becomes a well respected academic in the USSR. The two of them reconnect via correspondence in the sixties. She can only mail her letters to him when she’s out of the country lecturing, in Sydney for instance (an Aussie connection finally). An elderly Kate goes back to visit Yasnaya Polyana at the end.

Narrative
Third person from the POVs of the main protagonists alternating.

Characters
All finely drawn, not just the protagonists, although they get more detail.

Prose
Rich, intense, compelling with decidedly Russian feel to it, which means, among other things, that it can drag at times.

Bottom line
In the 13 years since The Zookeeper’s War, Mr Conte has honed his craft considerably IMHO. This won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I liked it.

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