Author: Leo Tolstoy
First Published: 1869
Page Count: 1,358
Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*
Rating: 4/5 Stars
The greatest novel of all time is indeed brilliant in both scope and story.
*Characters *Drama *Readability
*War Scenes *Epilogue Part II
“We are asleep until we fall in love.” Tolstoy gives readers a cast of characters to follow during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. We follow the characters onto the battlefield to experience the fighting first-hand, and to dinner parties, drawing rooms, and glittering balls where romance, gossip, and politics reign supreme. Will each character find happiness amidst war, poverty, death, and affairs of the heart?
I thought it would feel more like I had climbed Mt. Everest after I had finished the biggest book on my bookshelf, one of the greatest works in world literature. While it may be lengthy and written in the past, it is still just a book at heart, which is why I was surprised I didn’t feel more accomplished at its close. That does not in any way diminish the incredible writing that Tolstoy gives us in this sweeping novel. It really is breathtaking at the end to think about the multitude of characters you followed through their individual harrowing stories. The characters themselves are so varied and interesting from the awful, selfish Helene, to the spiritual Marie, or the thoughtful and kind Pierre, that they provide us with so many fascinating storylines to follow. What truly impressed me about this book, which might be attributed to the translation I read, was how readable it was compared to other classic works like Les Miserables. It is so much easier to lose yourself in the drama and beauty of the story since it is so easy to understand.
I knew with one glance at the title there would be some talk of war in War and Peace. What that usually means in classic books is that I could potentially be stuck sifting through hundreds of pages of dry descriptions of battle strategy and a summary of historical events that I could care less about. This was the case in War and Peace but, while the war scenes were still my least favorite sections, they were much more interesting than war scenes in other novels I’ve read. Because the characters in the book are present in the war scenes those sections don’t feel as disruptive to the story. Tolstoy is also excellent at writing about war in a way that is easy to follow and not as dry as it could be. If it wasn’t for the mind-numbingly boring part two of the epilogue where Tolstoy completely kills the high we have from closing the book on the lives of his characters by droning on about free will, power, and humanity, I would’ve commended the author on holding my attention fairly well throughout the novel. But, like I said, there is that section in the conclusion that just kills the book. It felt so unnecessary, but you better believe I read the whole thing because I was not quitting right in sight of the finish line!
I don’t think any book can come my way that I can’t take on now that I’ve conquered this monster of a novel. It is a superb story, but it isn’t for everyone. You need to really have the patience and will power to take on a classic like this. Luckily, if you can get past the dry parts and the page count, there is a fantastic story whose themes resonate in any time period and with any age group. It’s also nice to say you’re one of the few people on the planet that has actually read it cover to cover.
*TV Adaptation: (Starring Anthony Hopkins 1972-1974, Starring Sergei Alexashkin 1991, Starring Clemence Poesy 2007)
* Film Adaptation: (Starring Lyudmila Saveleva 1966, Starring Audrey Hepburn 1956, Starring Paul Dano 2016)