... captivating ... The impression that arises from the pages of Creating Anna Karenina is one of unexpected variety. There were so many Tolstoys! ... One of the delights of the book is the revelation of several parallels between the experiences of Tolstoy’s circle and the incidents in the novel ... Perhaps the most rewarding element of Creating Anna Karenina is not the research but Blaisdell’s own imagining of how it would feel to be part of that first audience, one of the 5,000 subscribers to The Russian Herald ... Blaisdell has created a worthy companion to the novel, a personal and deeply researched, multifaceted portrait of a literary genius that does indeed indicate the source of the book’s greatness: the battle of elements within Tolstoy himself.
... engaging and insightful ... packed with telling insights and details about Tolstoy’s life that shaped the direction of the book ... the product of a lifetime of study. It demonstrates extensive research and great learning and is written by a gifted storyteller. The good news is that the book is not simply an academic treatise and will appeal to general readers. Indeed, Blaisdell’s sly humor and deprecating wit add to the pleasure of reading it ... This volume is unlikely to be read by those who have never read Anna Karenina. But for those who have, Blaisdell offers intriguing insights and fresh perspectives that will no doubt lead some, including this writer, to reread Tolstoy’s great masterpiece with renewed appreciation.
The work of a Tolstoy superfan rather than a Tolstoy scholar per se, Creating Anna Karenina is an informal and chatty effort to understand what Tolstoy was up to in the four years he spent composing the novel ... his book is more of a playful experiment than a strict study. In its study of the comings and goings of the Tolstoy household at the time of the novel’s composition ... asks if one of the world’s greatest novels was in fact just as much a product of everyday minutia—like who stops by for a visit with what kind of gossip to tell—as it was the culmination of long-simmering ideas about morality and desire. The result is a work in many ways more instructive about the creative process than about Anna Karenina specifically, a consideration of how distractions, familial interference, and side projects resulted in Tolstoy writing one of the world’s greatest novels ... a view of Tolstoy’s life that makes the writing of Anna Karenina feel almost inevitable ... Perhaps Blaisdell has simply fallen for Tolstoy’s tricks, his feats of realism that make you forget you are reading a deeply plotted and contrived work of fiction.
...[an] entertaining micro-biography ...The book is a chronicle of distractions and peevish excuses that also shows how the consuming labor of procrastination became a crucial part of the novel’s texture ... Tolstoy’s endless side projects seem at first like nuisances deterring him from the single-minded production of art, yet it’s in the daily minutia, and the passionate convictions his characters could inject into it, that we find his great novel’s soul.
Blaisdell, an editor of Dover prose and poetry collections, offers a riveting account of Tolstoy’s composition of Anna Karenina. Blaisdell’s primary strength lies in going granular ... Most of all, however, Tolstoy comes to life as a complex individual defying easy classification. Tolstoy’s fans will relish learning from, and, occasionally, arguing with Blaisdell’s opinions. This passionate book is almost impossible to put down.
...affords an intimate look at Tolstoy's life ...Besides producing a meticulous close reading of the novel—summaries of chapters as they appeared in serial form, his responses as a reader, and his speculations about how Tolstoy’s contemporaries might have responded—Blaisdell draws on letters, memoirs, drafts, proofs, and Tolstoy’s various other writings to offer a detailed examination of the context of Tolstoy’s life during the four years of the novel’s creation ... While some general readers may find the exegesis of the novel to be overkill, the author makes it personal and interesting enough to overcome that minor flaw ... A revelatory portrait of a towering writer.