Monday, February 27, 2012

Tolstoy and The Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

This book puts me in mind of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From The Sea, except with reflections on life with each book read instead of each seashell found. I loved both books for the wisdom within the pages but I think I loved Tolstoy and The Purple Chair a little more. Books, stories, authors, history - these are all so incredibly alive on the shelves waiting patiently for us to discover them and in turn for them to reveal a little more about ourselves.  The author's project of reading a book a day for one year to 'get back into life' after the death of her sister just confirmed my belief that books are the best therapy for mind and soul.

This is a wonderful read for any bibliophile.

Nina Sankovitch continues to read and review books on her website Read All Day 

Nina Sankovitch has always been a reader. As a child, she discovered that a trip to the local bookmobile with her sister was more exhilarating than a ride at the carnival. Books were the glue that held her immigrant family together. When Nina's eldest sister died at the age of forty-six, Nina turned to books for comfort, escape, and introspection. In her beloved purple chair, she rediscovered the magic of such writers as Toni Morrison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ian McEwan, Edith Wharton, and, of course, Leo Tolstoy. Through the connections Nina made with books and authors (and even readers), her life changed profoundly, and in unexpected ways. Reading, it turned out, can be the ultimate therapy. (inside flap)

People often talk about the importance of living in the here and now, and express envy at how children enjoy their moments of pleasure without dwelling on the past of worrying about their future. Fine, agreed. But it is experience - a life lived - that allows us to recall moments of happiness and feel strength. Our survival as a species is linked to this ability to remember. pg 37

With books by my side, and my past and my present, all together, I would move into a future. Books, past, and present pushing me up and offering hope from what can be remembered. pg38

We weren't going to resolve the question of mankind's inherent goodness or evil sitting out on a deck on a summer night. But maybe, just maybe, if Liza took a book to bed and read it, really read it, she'd come closer to understanding our own closeted selves, our ambitions and our desires. And the impact of those desires on our lives, for good and for bad. pg136

The difference was that I had shied away from reading books about war, from having an experience that was scary and jarring and upsetting. And now I understood why it was important to read these books. Being witness to all types of human experience is important to understanding the world, but also to understanding myself. To define what is important to me, and who is important, and why. pg138

Joy and tears, pleasure and pain: everything came to me while I read in my purple chair. I had never sat so still, and yet experienced so much. pg139

I saw myself in both characters. I saw outsiders trying to find answers. It was not the physical or historical resemblances that mattered. It is our common desire, shared beneath the skin. pg143

Travel did not have to be solitary. A book shared was an escape with company. pg183

Wisdom from a mystery, discovered on a beach. And a new understanding of order in the universe. We cannot control events around us, but we are responsible for our reactions to those events. pg191

9 comments:

Laura said...

I've heard so many good things about this book! I'm definitely on the lookout for a copy :) - I love books about books!

Trish said...

Yes, it's a book about books, that's for sure. I was tickled to see how many she talked about that I'd already read, and then had to grab a paper and pencil to make a note of all the one's I hadn't read. She's helped me add quite a number to my wish list!

Emma said...

I read it last year and enjoyed it immensely as well. here is my review: http://wordsandpeace.com/2011/10/10/74-review-tolstoy-and-the-purple-chair/

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I so want to read this but unfortunately my library system doesn't have it. I would love to read a book a day for a year.

Trish said...

Emma - thanks for letting me know. I'll be over shortly to check out your review.

Sam - what a shame! Is it not available at all in the UK? Hopefully you'll come across a copy soon. Yes, a book a day sounds like an enjoyably challenging endeavor.

Nan said...

Wonderful review. I must read this.

Trish said...

It's a lovely book. I hope you get a chance to read it sometime soon.

laughingwolf said...

have yet to find 'healing' in a book, no matter how well done... in great MUSIC is where i find serenity and bliss... can bring me to tears of joy, the better ones....

Trish said...

I'm not much of a music person . . .