The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy

By Sofia Tolstoy

Translated by Cathy Porter

ISBN: 9781846881022

640 pages

RRP: £10.39

‘I found myself dreaming about Sofia, about speaking to her myself, desperately wanting to reach out to her and offer her words of comfort for her pain. Perhaps, hopefully, this record of her struggles will be a comfort and inspiration to present and future generations.’ From the foreword by Doris Lessing

After marrying Count Leo Tolstoy, the author of Anna Karenina and War and Peace, Sofia Behrs kept a detailed diary until his death in 1910.

Sofia’s life was not an easy one: she idealized her husband, but was tormented by him; even her many children were not an unmitigated blessing. In the background of her life was one of the most turbulent periods of Russian history: the transition from old feudal Russia through the three revolutions and three major international wars. Yet it is as Sofia Tolstoy’s own life story, the study of one woman’s private experience, that the diaries are most valuable and moving. They are a testament to a woman of tremendous vital energy and poetic sensibility who, in the face of provocation and suffering, continued to strive for the higher things in life and to remain indomitable.


  • An elegant, readable volume.

    A.N. Wilson
    The Spectator

  • The diary entries bear witness to a remarkable life: the life of an exceptional woman, married to one of the most exceptional men of the time, with all her passions and difficulties laid bare. This is a book that is interesting for what it says about the predicament of women in the past, and how that compares to their present circumstances.

    The Sunday Times

  • How she remained married to the beyond difficult Tolstoy for close on half a century remains one of life's great mysteries, and Sofia's diaries provide rich, at times peevish, but invariably vivid insights to the Russia of her lifetime.

    The Irish Times

  • Thanks to this excellent translation of Sofia's diaries (1862–1910), we can begin to understand what it was like to be married to Tolstoy, a man of genus who was both a monster and a saint … for those who are interested in the complexities of a personal relationship, this book will give much food for thought.

    Church Times

  • The hundreds of pages offered by Porter in this selection are testament to a great spirit, a woman who lived in terrifying proximity to one of the greatest writers of all time, and who understood exactly the high price she would have to pay for this privilege.

    Jay Parini

Sofia Tolstoy

Sofia Tolstoy was the wife of Leo Tolstoy for nearly fifty years. She gave birth to his thirteen children and raised his numerous grandchildren, keeping a detailed diary of her entire married life.