Leo and Sonya Tolstoy
Much like his character Levin in Anna Karenina, Tolstoy always knew which family he would marry into. He planned to wed one of the children of his childhood sweetheart, Liubov Behrs, and became smitten with her daughter Sonya in 1858. She was 14, he 30, but this didn't deter him; four years later, he proposed, fearing she wouldn't love him because he was much older, had suffered venereal disease and had fathered an illegitimate child. But they married, and, on the eve of their wedding, Tolstoy presented her with his diaries (an act replicated by Levin) in which he detailed his misdemeanours and sexual exploits. He insisted the pair kept journals and shared their every thought and feeling. She went on to bear him 13 children (eight of whom survived childhood) and to copy out seven drafts of War and Peace. Both Leo and Sonya experienced jealousy and insecurity, leading to furious arguments, and at times Sonya felt her husband didn't love her. "If I am only a doll, a 'wife' and not a human being, then it is all useless," she wrote. Yet it is hard to fault them for aspiring to such authenticity. For a while it clearly worked. After 48 years, their marriage deteriorated as Tolstoy grew more eccentric and tortured. He deserted Sonya and chose to die without her in 1910.