05 May 2011

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

Three years after her oldest sister died of cancer, Nina Sankovitch began a reading project: she would read a book per day for one year.  The love of books was one she shared with her sister.  Reading in her purple chair - a flea-shop-type find well-loved by children and the family cat - Sankovitch finds both the escape and the space to heal she has been searching for.  Her reading project becomes Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.

As the year passes, Sankovitch weaves together her reading exploits with the memoir of her family, the history of her Polish-Dutch immigrant parents and her relationship with her husband, Jack, and their four boys.  The book is funny, sweet, and sad by turns.

For some reason, I didn't connect with Sankovitch.  I was looking for a book that went from book to book to book, looking at what she read, how she read it, how each book informed the choice of the next.  Instead, this is really a memoir about a woman who learns to accept her life for the joy that is in it and, occasionally, she writes about the books she reads but not all 365 of them - the alphabetized list in the back doesn't really give me a sense of her year of reading.  For me, the books she read blurred together in between the story about her family, her parents, her sister, her children.  Sankovitch is a lovely writer, with good prose and a nice touch to her sentences but I didn't really feel anything solid reading her book.  I get the distinct impression I should have felt...something.  And that really is the worst part - I have no strong feeling about this book so it's very hard to write anything about it.

Dear FTC, I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

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