Archive for August, 2012

Post #TWO RE: “War and Peace”

Friday, August 31st, 2012

I want to continue with a few more biographical facts regarding Tolstoy, said to be one of the greatest novelists who ever lived. I found it interesting that Tolstoy himself did not consider War and Peace a novel. His definition of a novel was a work that “was a framework for the examination of social and political issues in nineteenth-century life.” To Tolstoy, War and Peace did not qualify. He considered it “an epic in prose.”

Equally fascinating was the fact that Tolstoy, although brought up in a privileged, extremely wealthy family, sympathized greatly with the plight of the poor. He founded thirteen schools for the children of his serfs, based on the principles that Tolstoy set forth in his essay of 1862, entitled “The school at Yasnaya Polyana.” If the Czarist secret police did not harass Tolstoy, his educational experiments would have continued. In fact, at different times during his life, this prominent writer wanted to reject his inherited and earned wealth. As hard as it may be to believe, he renounced the copyrights on some of his early works.

Both his contemporaries and those who came after him admired Tolstoy greatly. For example, Virginia Woolf considered him the greatest of all novelists. Likewise, Fyodor Dostoyevski thought of him as “the greatest of all living novelists.” Thomas Mann was impressed with Tolstoy’s “seemingly guileless artistry.” Gustave Flaubert, upon reading War and Peace, commented “What an artist and what a psychologist!” Most memorable to me was Anton Chekhov’s reaction to reading Tolstoy’s works. A friend of Tolstoy’s, Chekhov often visited his fellow writer’s country estate. What a high opinion he had of Tolstoy! Chekhov wrote, “When literature possesses a Tolstoy, it is easy and pleasant to be a writer; even when you know you have achieved nothing yourself and are still achieving nothing, this is not as terrible as it might otherwise be, because Tolstoy achieves for everyone. What he does serves to justify all the hopes and aspirations invested in literature.” I cannot think of a greater compliment one writer can pay another than this! Chekhow, a great playwright himself, showed much humility and love in writing this comment about Tolstoy.

The horrors of war in War and Peace could not have been so graphic and real if Tolstoy himself had not served in the military. During the Crimean War, he served as a second lieutenant in an artillery regiment. He discussed some of his experiences in his “Sevastapol Sketches.” Because he experienced so much of the horror of war, he later turned away from battle, favoring pacifism. However, Tolstoy’s experiences gave him needed material for a realistic rendering of the atrocities of war, which was depicted in War and Peace.

Later today, I want to discuss my first impressions of the characters to whom the readers of War and Peace are introduced in the very beginning of the novel. Having read this novel in part many years ago, I could experience as I reread the first part of War and Peace, memories returning of Pierre, the little Princess, Prince Vassily and so many of the other characters. It is hard to believe, but there are over five hundred characters in the novel. With the challengingly long Russian names, it is not easy to keep the characters clear and distinct in my mind, but I will certainly try hard to do so.

Until my next post,(I hope a little later today), I encourage all of you to provide yourselves with a copy of War and Peace and to begin reading. Together, we will all obtain a worthy goal: reading, understanding and enjoying a great novel.


Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

I would like to begin my series on one of the greatest novels ever written by mentioning a number of facts about Tolstoy’s life that I found fascinating. If you decided to read biographical information about Tolstoy yourself, you would find that certain facts stand out as being exceptionally interesting and memorable. Although all of us are unique and therefore may be impressed with different things, I still feel strongly that the highlights that I have chosen will appeal to you all.

When I read that Tolstoy (born Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy) was born in 1828 and died in 2010, I was surprised to see that he lived to a ripe old age of 82. For the era in which Tolstoy lived, it was amazing to be an octogenarian. Actually, Tolstoy lived longer than most people do today!

I found it interesting and amazing that Tolstoy and his wife, Sofya Andreyevna Bers, had thirteen children, five of whom died during their childhood. Although Tolstoy and his bride were passionately in love with each other, it is also true that Tolstoy was emotionally insensitive to his wife’s needs. Therefore, it is hard to understand how their marriage was ever happy, but it was said in several different sources that they were happy for several years, especially when they were raising their children. In the Introduction to the Modern Library translation of War and Peace, we are told that a part of Tolstoy’s psyche was a complacent farmer who was happy to live a simple life with his family and friends. This outer self was happy and not zealous about producing great literary works. Yet, deep within himself, there was an emerging literary genius.

Tolstoy’s family’s estate, Yasnaya Pllyana, or Bright Glade, was located 130 miles southwest of Moscow. The fourth of five children, he was born into a life of privilege in a family, older and prouder than even the Czar’s.

As a young man, he was unsuccessful in school, at which he indulged in drinking and gambling. He returned to the family estate without having graduated and claimed his birthright, which included 350 serfs and their families. He entered military service after several more wasted years of debauchery. It was actually while he was in the army that Tolstoy became interested in writing.

Tolstoy was influenced by the writing of Charles Dickens. Like the famous English writer, Tolstoy wrote his books in installments in a popular magazine. War and Peace was originally entitled 1805. Interestingly enough, when the novel was finally put together in volume form, Tolstoy published it himself. He may have had to borrow a thousand roubles to do so (most of which he spent on a fur hat and boots), but the investment was obviously worth it. He also hired as illustrator for the novel an artist by the name of Mikhail Sergeyevich Bashilov, who was distantly related to his wife. It is said that Tolstoy’s letters to Bashilov were “fascinating reading in themselves.”

War and Peace, considered by many the greatest novel ever written, is many things. It is an epic of the Napoleonic Wars, a study in philosophy and a “celebration of the Russian spirit.” During the course of one’s life, I believe that reading this epic novel should be on our bucket list.

I found it amazing that Tolstoy’s wife, Sofya, worked all through Christmas and January of 1865 to copy and correct three separate drafts of the novel until they were considered acceptable to be submitted to his agent, Karkov. When Tolstoy made corrections and additions to the proofs in his illegible handwriting, it seemed that only Sofya could deciipher his scribbled writing. Imagine that she did all this in addition to her chores and her raising the couple’s large family.

The writing of War and Peace was naturally influenced by many incidents in Tolstoy’s life. One was his defence of a Private Vasily Shabunin, who had hit his commanding officer in the face under very trying circumstances. Doing such a thing, whether provoked or not, was inexcusable then to the point of the perpetrator being executed. Tolstoy tried to spare the Private’s life through what he considered at that time a clever defence, but he failed to do so. Years later, he admitted that he was disappointed in the way that he had handled the case.

If War and Peace is one of the greatest novels ever written, you owe it to yourself to read it if you have not already done so. I ask you then to begin the journey with me. During each of my forthcoming posts, I will react to my reading of a different section of the novel. I would welcome your feedback. So take the journey along with me. As a great poet once said, “the best is yet to be.”


Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Has there ever been a goal in your life that was important to you but seemingly unattainable in terms of time, workload and the daily responsibilities of living? Perhaps, the dimensions of the objective were too overwhelming at the time. Maybe, during the course of your life, it was cast aside or hidden at the bottom of the collection of the more pressing needs of each day. Whatever the reason, this goal was probably never achieved.

I have always wanted to complete the book that has been considered by most the greatest novel ever written by an acclaimed literary genius. Yet, I did not read the novel as part of my required college courses as an English major back in the 1960s. In fact, for one reason or another, I did not take even one course in Russian literature. If I had done so, I would have had to rush through the reading of this novel (just as I hurriedly read all my required books in college), and that would not have been something I would have wanted to do. To me, this novel has to be read slowly, savored, absorbed gradually and reflected upon frequently. I would not have liked to have had pulled a series of all-nighters to read this novel. No, certainly not! That would have ruined the experience for me.

Of course, you must have guessed by now that the title of the book to which I am alluding is “War and Peace” by the highly celebrated author, Leo Tolstoy. You must also have surmised that I am ready now to work at attaining my goal of reading it and gleaning whatever I can from the enriching experience.

But I want to share the experience with all you, the readers of my blogs. As I read a little of the book each day, I want to share my reactions with you. I will be writing my own notes on each chapter with the hope that you will be encouraged to start reading the novel as well and thereby share in the experience. Tomorrow I will tell you what I have learned from the introduction to the Modern Library edition by A. N. Wilson, a renowned novelist in his own right, and also a journalist and biographer.

This is not a course, and again, I emphasize that I am not in any hurry to finish reading the book. It may take several months with reading and writing my notes as I go along. My objective is to enjoy the novel, understand the various intertwining plots and relate to the numerous characters and the sweeping, dramatic times in which they lived while chronicling my reactions.

It is quite an undertaking, but together, we can do it, and the journey will be just as exciting as reaching the destination.

Suggestions For Some Excellent Summer Reading!

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Yes, I know summer is almost over. Labor day is around the corner, and that is, of course, the unofficial conclusion to the summer. Even though the real end is around September 21st, if you think about it, that’s only a few weeks after Labor Day. So I suggest that you should do now whatever you planned for this summer and haven’t got around to doing yet.

If, by chance, you planned on reading a few books, and your vacation from work is here or fast approaching, I want to be the first one to recommend a couple of very interesting books with substance. Yet, they can be read while sitting around the pool or relaxing in your home or at your vacation resort in the evening.

I just finished rereading “Scarlett” by Alexandra Ripley. I read it twenty years ago, just about a year after it came out, and then a few weeks ago I had a yearning to read it again. I think it was because I recently saw “Gone With the Wind” again on television, and “Scarlett” is its sequel.

I didn’t break any speed records in my reading, (and, you know, I didn’t even want to), but at a relaxing pace, I read all eight hundred twenty-three pages of “Scarlett” in about two weeks. I enjoyed every minute, and I was shocked at how many parts I had forgotten over the years.

I don’t want to divulge much of the plot for those of you who haven’t read it yet, but I must say that it is most engaging. Even though I had only a couple of hours or less each day to read it, I still found it difficult to put it down. The plot is really exciting, and there is a great deal of suspense.

At the beginning of the novel, Scarlett is the same selfish, vain and materialistic woman that she is in “Gone With the Wind,” but she goes through a wonderful metamorphosis. She gradually matures into a more compassionate, caring human being. At one point, she truly experiences love for the first time (I won’t tell you where or when), and after that , her ability to love transforms her life.

Nothing changes the love she has for Rhett, even though he rejects her time and time again. Does he stop loving her? You will be able to answer that question when you read the book. What abouat her relationship with Ashley after Melanie dies, and Rhett leaves Scarlett? Are there any other men in Scarlett’s life? Does Rhett ever return to her? You can find the answer to all these questions and more when you read the novel.

I laughed and cried while reading “Scarlett.” Scarlett’s strength and determination gave me more courage, just reading about her. Scarlett’s determination to go on with her life, whatever it turned out to be, helped to make me stronger, too. A novel that can do all these things and more deserves to be read. Buy a copy.

Now a few words about my latest novel, “Escape From the Maelstrom.” You might ask why you should read it. For one thing, it is a suspenseful story that takes place one hundred years ago, the settings of which are first Moscow, then Odessa, St. Petersburg and the United States. You will learn a great deal about history: Czarist rule in Russia, World War I, the Russian Revolution and life in early nineteenth century Odessa and the United States. Many of the events are fascinating. Each time I reread my own book, I find it hard to put it down, and I know how it ends.

Also, the characters are realistic. The main character, Karina, is based upon my paternal grandmother who emigrated from Russia back in the 1890s, but there is also a little bit of me in the character as well. Many of the characters in my books are composite characters.

I will just tell you that Karina marries a distant cousin of the Romanovs and therefore is under scrutiny by the Czarist regime, which was in control of Russia at that time. Her husband dies mysteriously, and from that time on, Karina’s life is in jeopardy. What happens to her and the people who help and guide her to freedom is the core of the plot.

It is filled with action and moves very fast. You could probably read it in one day. Get a copy! You’ll enjoy it.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about the two novels that have occupied a great deal of my time this summer. As I said before, the summer is waning. Go out there and enjoy it, but don’t forget to leave some time to read!

To order “Escape From the Maelstrom,” go to and do a search for “Escape From the Maelstrom” by Cheryl Madeleine Lodico. When the novel comes up, click on it and add it to your cart. In a month or less, my book will also be available on Do a search for the book by title and author, and when it appears, also add it to your cart. Do the same for “Scarlett” by Alexandra Ripley, which can be found on

Wishing you much happiness and enjoyable reading time,



Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

“Escape From the Maelstrom” just came out yesterday and will be available on within a few days. In a couple of weeks, it will be available on I loved writing this novel, and I am really proud of it now that I have received my author copy, and I can see it in its final form.

One day I will trace my actual genealogy, but this novel is a fanciful one. It is fiction, and the only similarity between the novel and my actual ancestry is simply that my paternal grandparents emigrated to the United States in the 1890s. I must admit that this fantasy version has to be quite a bit more exciting than the actual one.

However, the main character, Karina, has the strength, courage and fortitude of my paternal grandmother, Anna, who, separated from her family, emigrated to the United States at the young age of sixteen. When I was sixteen many decades later, I was going to high school, and my greatest fear perhaps was failing a test. My grandmother, back in the last decade of the nineteenth century, was crossing the Atlantic with virtual strangers. Yet, I am sure that her complaints about her status were much fewer than mine.

I did a great deal of research before writing this novel. I had to be more knowledgable about the Romanovs, especially Czar Nicholas, World War One and the Russian Revolution. Since some of the action takes place in the United States in the early nineteen hundreds, I had to do research in that area as well. I enjoyed looking up the first films, early plays, even football and baseball information from the early twentieth century. Everything I mentioned had to be historically accurate and fit perfectly into the plot.

Reading and writing as much as I have over the course of my life has helped me to appreciate the really great classical writiers. Weaving together a primary and secondary plot with sympathetic, realistic characters is far from easy. My books are a couple of hundred pages, and yet putting everything together to create an entertaining and informative story was challenging. If it was challenging for me, imagine how difficult it must have been for Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, the Bronte sisters, Herman Melville, Faulkner, Hemingway, etc., whose plots were much more intricate and complex. You can see why I admire beyond words the writers of the great classics. With each of my own books, I hope to keep improving. As with everything else, the key to success is hard work, study, knowledge and, of course, some talent.

I hope that many of you will read “Escape From the Maelstrom” and enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it. I will include more about the joy of reading and writing in my next post. Until then, I send my very best wishes.

“Escape From the Maelstrom” is available now on, which is the Red Lead Bookstore online. Just do a search for “Cheryl Madelein Lodico” or “Cheryl Lodico” and a list of all my books will come up. Click on “Escape From the maelstrom” and order. If you are interested in ordering “Scarlett” by Alexandra Ripley, go to and do a search for “Scarlett” by Alexandra Ripley. tThen add “Scarlett” to your cart. In a month, my novel, “Escape From the Maelstrom” will be available on Amazon, too. To go “Inside the Book”, which allows you to read a chapter or two from a book to preview it, you can do a search using my name, “Cheryl Madeleine Lodico,” and my books will come up. For most of them, you can go “inside the book.”

Happy reading and wishing you the very best always,