By: Leo Tolstoy
Subject Matter: Napoleonic Wars; Campaigns; Russia; History; Alexander I
Boy oh boy, am I glad to be done with this one.
War and Peace isn’t a novel.
It’s a tome.
This book took me seven months to read. Seven. And I’m a pretty fast reader. The version I had is 1,386 pages long. So basically a million.
That said, I actually really enjoyed this book.
Well, parts of it.
At first, I thought that the book was inherently political because of the subject matter (the Napoleonic Wars with Russia), but then I realized that Tolstoy’s entire intent was to write a political book.
The novel is peppered with philosophical, political, sociological rants. Sometimes just for a paragraph or two; sometimes a whole chapter is that way.
If you want to know what I’m talking about, here’s a little snippet:
“Yet under this conception [of a force equal to the whole movement of the nations] there are included by various historians forces of the most various kinds, and all unequal to the movement that is seen. Some see in it a force directly pertaining to heroes, as the peasant sees the devil in the steam-engine. Others, a force resulting from several other forces, like the movement of the wheels; a third class, intellectual influence, like the smoke.”
That particular passage is from page 1,353 in my version, but it could be from any point in the novel, really. Tolstoy’s entire point of this huge book is that wars aren’t caused by the actions of one particular person, and saying that Napoleon and Alexander caused the Napoleonic Wars is ridiculous.
Which is fine. But did he really need 1,400 pages to get that point across?
Truth be told, if I hadn’t read the Epilogue, which is a hundred pages long, I probably would’ve given this one a 4 out of 5. But the story really stops before the Epilogue. There are a few bits of information you get about the characters’ lives seven years down the road, but 95% of it is Tolstoy making a political point.
The story is great, I thought. Tolstoy is amazing at character development, and his myriad characters are all very different but very real.
So I don’t have any problem at all with the bulk of this novel. I quite enjoyed it.
You just have to be okay with the political rants and raves.
Anyone read War and Peace before? Anyone want to? It’s quite the commitment. But you learn a lot, especially about Russia if that interests you, and it’s not a bad story altogether.
If you liked War and Peace, try these:
Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess, Russia, 1914 by Carolyn Meyer
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Complete Adventures of Charlie and Mr. Willy Wonka by Roald Dahl
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Plainsong by Kent Haruf