I hate to be beaten by a book, but have to confess a failure. Although I’m becoming more selective as I get older, and usually picking a book  I really want to read and think that I’ll read, I still sometimes get a few chapters into a volume and wonder why I’m wasting my time.

This weekend I decided to take a break from the lovely old green Penguin crime stories I’d been reading. Although they’re wonderfully well written and enjoyable (and the older ones in particular are as literate as most modern novels!) I still have this guilt thing that tells me I should be reading a “proper” book.   So I decided that a slim volume of Tolstoy would be a good attempt at some real literature and picked up “The Kreutzer Sonata”.

The volume came as part of a lovely set called “Great Loves” from Penguin, which I picked up for a snip from The Book People. At about 100 pages long I figured I could get to grips with Tolstoy quite easily as I’m a veteran reader of Russian literature – how wrong I was!

From looking at the synopsis online, the story of Pozdnyshev, who murders his wife out of jealousy, seems quite straightforward but I simply *could not* get into the book. There were extended rants on the state of marriage, the problems of carnal love, women’s wiles and men’s weaknesses – I ended up uninterested, frustrated and bored after about 30 pages and without the will to go on.

So I did what I don’t often do – I abandoned it. From looking online it seems to be one of Tolstoy’s later books when he had become radical in his views and somewhat muddled in its thinking. Apparently Tolstoy’s wife wasn’t exactly happy about this volume and I can see why!

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, I’ve picked up a lovely vintage Penguin copy of Elizabeth Bowen’s “The Death of the Heart”, which is proving much more enjoyable – life is too short to struggle with an unpalatable book when there are so many more wonderful ones to be discovered!