If everyone fought for their own convictions there would be no war.
War and Peace
By Leo Tolstoy, Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Originally published 1865
War and Peace broadly focuses on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the most well-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance and yearning for spiritual fulfillment; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves his family behind to fight in the war against Napoleon; and Natasha Rostov, the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman who intrigues both men.
As Napoleon’s army invades, Tolstoy brilliantly follows characters from diverse backgrounds—peasants and nobility, civilians and soldiers—as they struggle with the problems unique to their era, their history, and their culture. And as the novel progresses, these characters transcend their specificity, becoming some of the most moving—and human—figures in world literature.
I’m going to cheat a bit on this review and keep it shockingly short since I’ve already written more words than I can count regarding this book. So for chapter by chapter refreshers and reactions…. just click here.
But to sum it all up…
Yes. Wonderful. It is love and heartbreak and drama and scandal and death and everything you would expect to find in a massive 7-year spanning epic.
Not only was it entertaining, but it was informative as well. I walked away knowing more about Napoleon’s Russian campaign than I ever did before and got more insight into Russia’s changi19th-centuryury society. For someone who has a degree in European History, I’m a little ashamed that I hadn’t read it sooner.
Should You Read This?
Yes. It’s a challenge for sure, but a good challenge. I ended up enjoying it far more than I expected to, and if you embark on the journey I hope you do too!
I will also say as someone who read Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov in the past year- this was far easier despite it being about 500 pages longer and having like 300 more characters.
Tolstoy writes by the theory that readers desire short, digestible nuggets of prose. The chapters of War and Peace are short, and as long as you can keep everyone straight (it really does get easy, I swear) it goes quick, and you aren’t even forced to eat up dozens of pages worth of philosophical musings at a time. Tolstoy keeps those opinions bite-sized as well (except for Epilogue II, but even that is only 30-ish pages)
Anyway… do it. Take the challenge, and let me know what you think!
Summary from Goodreads
I also enjoyed this book…and I agree about it being a rich source of Napoleonic history…that is my overriding memory. It was tough to keep track of all of the characters (not made any easier by the apparent Russian tendency to give them 2-3 names each either) but well worth the effort.
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I don’t know, I’ve started reading it several times, read big chunks and found that it just wasn’t for me (caused a lot of trouble with literature class, especially since I live in Russia). I never understood why some of my friends like it so much. Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, is much easier to read, although this is all my humble opinion, of course=)
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