Halfway through this book and the theme seems to be a religious one with Tolstoy looking at how people can determine to change their own destiny and personality.
It kicks off with Father Sergius, a story of a perfectionist who has worked his way up in the military to become an aide de camp to the Tsar and is on the brink of getting married to a woman well above his social position. But his pride is wounded when he discovers she was the emperor's mistress. He leaves and heads into a monastery and there dedicates himself to being the best he can be there. But again pride becomes his weakness and even when he becomes a hermit he still can't fight the urge for self promotion rather than God's. In the end he learns through a meeting with a poor peasant relation that the best thing to do is be as good as you can without blowing your trumpet about it.
Master and Man, the title story, is a tale with a warning about greed. A rich merchant moves to seal the deal on a bit of woodland hoping to get the owner to sell at a very low price before competitors arrive and point out the real value. But as he sets off into a snow storm with his servant he is not only pushing his luck but taking on the Russian weather. Even when he gets the chance to stay at a friends and avoid the snow and biting cold his greed gets him back out there on the road. The cost of doing so is not just the ultimate one but as Tolstoy suggests one that gives him a chance to redeem himself and find a lasting spirituality.
A full review will come soon...