Book Review: The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

Book Review: The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy


Well… Hi there! My name is Viktor and I’m from Russia. I’m 22 years old, working and studying in Moscow. Why am I here? The only reason is that I’d like to tell you about my passion, about my true passion: about reading. I believe that we all love something in our life, but there’s one thing, at least, that we love most. In my case it’s reading. I feel blessed to have a good family, and my twin brother Aleksandr is always close to me, and we have a good opportunity to discuss everything what we read. And, believe me, he’s here now, close to me, but you just don’t see him. Well…please, forgive me for my English, it isn’t perfect now. But the fact is that I’m trying to improve it. Okay, I promise I’ll fix it! For practice I decided to make this video in English… and… although it’s a bit challenging for me. And for this, I’d like to apologize for using rather simple sentences, okay? I know a lot of people who enjoy books like “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “The Great Gatsby”, “The Grapes of Wrath”, “Gone with the Wind” and other books. And, believe me, I love them, too. They’re all good books. But because I’m Russian, I’d like to share with you my thoughts on Russian Classic Literature. And first of all, I want to tell you about my opinion on one of my favorite books ever – “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy. I know, in English his name’s Leo, but it’s so unusual for me to hear his name in that way. So, please, let me call him Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy. I think you probably know Tolstoy by his big popular works like “War and Peace”, “Anna Karenina” and “Resurrection”. Meanwhile, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” is a pretty short story. I’ll be brief in the description of the plot. This story tells us about one ordinary man with an ordinary life – about Ivan Ilyich Golovin. His life was pleasant and decent. He had a respectable job, a good house, a wife and kids, many good friends. But, once upon a time, Ivan Ilyich was diagnosed with a fatal disease. And then, page after page, Tolstoy shows us the mind of man who knows he will die soon. Ivan Ilyich has started the battle with the idea of his own death. It was a drama for him. He said: “I have been HERE. Now I am going THERE. Where?.. I won’t have it!” Ivan Ilyich was surprised when he noticed suddenly that the others, even his own family, did not care, And the world lives on around him as if nothing is happening! So no hope, no help, no compassion. Only your own pain, fear and death. Ivan Ilyich realized that his life, seemed to be so good and pleasant, wasn’t truly good. During his life he thoughts only about money, his career and nothing else. One year. Two years. Ten years. Twenty years – nothing else. In the face of death, he realized that he was only living truly in his childhood. Only in his childhood he wasn’t pretending. By the way, do you remember “The Breakfast Club”? “When you grow up, your heart dies”. It’s the same, right? I’m not Ivan Ilyich, but sometimes only my childhood memories seemed to be really happy. Adn you? In this story I love one character – Gerasim, the butler of Ivan Ilyich. So if you want to find out what the Russian spirit is, please, take a special note of Gerasim. He’s a true example of the Russian kindness and simplicity. I’ve read “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” for the first time 3 years ago, and since that day I’ve reread it twice. And every time I read it, I say to myself: “Stop, wait a second. It looks like this book is written by me!” By this, I mean I was reading page after page and realizing that it completely coincides with my thoughts, but I just couldn’t express it before. When I finished reading it, I had a long conversation with my twin brother about story, and we both were excited. Okay, so “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” is a simple and short story with deep meanings. However, this story is not about just Ivan Ilyich. It’s about all of us. And there’s no doubt that you’ll find some answers for your own questions in that book. Definitely! Again, I know that Tolstoy looks like such a wise man and, yes, he is! But “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” is short, deep and it’s simple to understand at the same time. And if you haven’t read it yet, you have to! So I think that’s all for the first time. Excuse me for not showing the book. I have it, but it’s in other city. Now I live in a rent apartment. Actually, I have a good home library with almost 500 books. And I miss them a lot. My parents started to gather all these books together. And I’m so happy to continue their work. Again, excuse me for some mistakes in my pronunciation I will try to fix it. And I hope you enjoyed this video. I was enjoing to say it for you! Bye!

6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy”

  • Thank you very much for this simple and interesting review of a very good book – The death of Ivan Ilytch – from now on I promise to try to say Lev Tolstoi instead of Leo or Leon…keep collecting good books, they will be your best friends in the future.

  • Please make more reviews of such good books. Dont worry about your accent, as long as you give such meaningful opinions.

  • I'm taking a Russian literature class, and we had just read this tale along with others by Tolstoy. Your insight provides me with a new perspective on what we've been reading (not only Tolstoy, either, but Karamzin, Pushkin, Gogol)! I'm not really as familiar with Russian literature as I'd like to be, so your comments allow me to see how Ivan Ilych — and, to my surprise, Gerasim — acts as a solid representation of Russian society. Thanks!

  • Thank you for your review. You gave me a push to read it. It sounds such a great book. I have followed you, please make new reviews about Russian Literature.

  • My favorites are: "The Three Hermits," "The Bear Hunt," (vivid), "Kreutzer Sonata" – which was condemned as immoral by President Roosevelt; "Death of Ivan Illich," "Strider." "Resurrection" is too maudlin. Tolstoy creates an astounding sense of place and reality. Never tiring. Probably too overbearing and argumentative to chat with. Insulted Rachmaninoff, Chaliapin, told them their music making – at Ys. Pol. stirred worthless passions.

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