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Tolstoy Lied: A Love Story Paperback – September 11, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (September 11, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061891983X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618919833
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tracy Farber, a 33-year-old not-yet-tenured English professor at an unnamed New York City university, works to subvert Tolstoy's famous statement that "happy families are all alike" by investigating whether American fiction can "have an ending that's both honest and happy." Satisfied with her independence and her challenging academic career, Tracy's only worries are her girlfriends' romantic problems and bitter colleague Joanne, who is on a professional witch-hunt over grade inflation. Until she starts dating earnest education policy consultant George; the two have a two-month whirlwind romance before getting engaged, but when they hit a rough patch, Tracy finds real happiness isn't necessarily the stuff of her academic research. Her romantic difficulties (and joys) share near equal time with Tracy's academic pursuits and university politics: Tracy's best friend considers resigning to be with his lover; a visiting Oxford professor shakes up the department; a high-strung graduate student melts down; and Joanne's increasing rancor puts Tracy's tenure at risk. Kadish (From a Sealed Room) writes about relationships with as much passion as she does literary theory, and her intelligent narrator—intensely aware of romantic clichés—gives this novel insightful traction that 21st-century feminists will appreciate. (Sept. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Tolstoy wrote, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Tracy Farber is out to prove him wrong. Happiness can be just as interesting and complicated as unhappiness, and she's got proof. She's 33, single, and a professor of English about to get tenure at a prestigious New York university. She's happier than she has ever been, or at least she believes she is until she meets George. He is good-looking, intelligent, caring, and challenges all of Tracy's beliefs about life, work, and love. However, when George proposes after only a month, Tracy's life goes into high gear trying to sort out who she is, what she wants, and what will really make her happy. Meanwhile, Tracy puts her tenure in jeopardy when she butts heads with a prominent faculty member over a grad student's dissertation. Using quotes from Shakespeare to Melville, Kadish writes a very literary tale about the complicated steps we all take in the pursuit of happiness. It's not Tolstoy, but it is interesting and has a happy ending. Carolyn Kubisz
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Brilliantly written and very inspirational.
KMG
Happy people can generally be brushed aside because their tales are like the tale of any other happy person.
skrishna
I appreciate the intellectual , religious and racial balancing she does without ever judging.
Jennifer C. Osborne

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on November 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Rachel Kadish's novel Tolstoy Lied is a great read, a book that dares to be both extremely funny and generously kind. Kadish writes with wry humor about serious things, yet manages to do it without sacrificing her story on the pseudo-hip altar of sarcasm. It's easy for writers to resort to smug cynicism and biting barbs in order to sound smart and clever, but Kadish skips all that and instead offers up real insight so that we care about her people while also being able to laugh. Forgoing splashy attention-grabbing pyrotechnics that call attention to the author, Kadish stays out of the way and instead focuses on her story, delivering it in pitch-perfect prose that makes the book impossible to put down.

And what a juicy story it is. I loved every page, not a false word in here. The outrageous high jinks of academia. The tumultuous ups and downs of adult love. The droll loyalties of exhausted friends. Kadish's hilarious take on a misguided off-off Broadway play about Freud is alone worth the price of admission. I read this book in three nights; my husband (that's right; what's with this 'chick-lit' labeling?) opened it on a plane to the West Coast and said that, for once, the flight was too short.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By skrishna VINE VOICE on September 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
One of the most pertinent questions regarding Tolstoy Lied by Rachel Kadish is: Do you need to have read Tolstoy in order to understand the book? The short answer: Sort of. The long answer: You don't need to have read Tolstoy in order to understand the book. But reading Anna Karenina would help you to appreciate Kadish's novel, which in all its glory cannot be fully comprehended and appreciated without knowledge of the tragic story of Anna Karenina and the main message that Tolstoy aimed to convey through that tragic tale. Specifically, the quote "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," plays an integral part in both books. Tolstoy's message is that unhappy people have stories to tell; they are unique and interesting, unhappy in their own ways. Happy people can generally be brushed aside because their tales are like the tale of any other happy person. Therefore, the only stories worth reading are stories about unhappy people.

The main character in Tolstoy Lied, Tracy Farber, takes this quote to heart. She sets out on her personal journey determined to prove Tolstoy false; in essence, she wants to prove to the world that Tolstoy lied in the famous opening line of Anna Karenina. As a well-read, intelligent English professor at a small school in upstate New York, Farber asks herself (and everyone around her) why the only books that seem to be lauded critically are books with unhappy endings. Books with happy endings are brushed off as too shallow and superficial to have any real intelligence behind them. And indeed, this does happen quite often in the real world. Book genres such as "chick lit" are brushed off as shallow beach reads, whereas tragic books such as Anna Karenina are hailed as classics and critically lauded.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Not Your Average Plumber on September 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The author has penned a very engaging and thought-provoking book on a subject that is strangely taboo: an eye's wide open adventure into the jungle of happiness. The craft of Kadish's writing is excellent--I found myself turning the pages to find out what happens next with her very well drawn characters, all the while very much pulled into the drama and intrigue and (very much in abundance) humor that the author has laid out as a satisfying feast. Well worth it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Katherine E. Charlton on March 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
About six pages in, I realized I needed to keep a pen handy while reading this book. By the time I was through, I had more favorite lines circled than some of the books I read for undergrad. Fueled by her career, satiated on books, and supported by trusted friends, Tracy Farber had turned her back on the prospect of love. Haunted by the topic of happiness and Tolstoy's assertion that 'Happy families are all alike every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,' Tracy embarks on a personal and professional journey to discover if this is, indeed, the case: in literature and in life. An insightful and entertaining journey into the world of love, academia and, of course, happiness, Tolstoy Lied is recommended for skeptics of love, academics and academics at heart, and anyone who appreciates the sort of thoughtful narrative that gives necessity to a book-side pen.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In Rachel Kadish's "Tolstoy Lied," a thirty-three year old professor of American literature named Tracy Farber rejects Tolstoy's famous statement that "happy families are all alike." She believes that happiness need not be dull or bland, and is even planning a research paper to prove her thesis. Tracy's life has settled into a predictable routine. "Dating emptied me out," she insists, so she decides to stop looking for her ideal man. She no longer wants to be "a collector of people or of grudges." Tracy ignores the Marriage Mafia and goes about her business, reading constantly, teaching classes, and mentoring a gifted but off-center doctoral candidate named Elizabeth.

Rachel has a married and rather smug friend named Hannah who has a baby with one on the way. Hannah is like all married people in that she refuses to divulge the secret of married love. How do people stay together day after day without throttling one another? Tracy's friend Yolanda is a tortured actress whose bad luck with men is legendary, and Tracy's gay friend, Jeff, is a fellow professor who is plotting to leave New York in order to be with his lover, Richard, in Georgia.

Of course, Tracy is heading for a fall. When she meets handsome, sweet, and sexy George Beck, she forgets her principles and quickly falls in love. Alas, George has issues and the relationship falters when he makes rash assumptions about their future without consulting her first. Independent and stubborn Tracy will never let any man ride roughshod over her. Adding to her woes, Tracy is heading for a confrontation with her prickly and mean-spirited colleague, Joanne, who is aggressively horning in on Tracy's work with Elizabeth. Departmental politics may yet derail Tracy's tenure, which until now seemed to be a sure thing.
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