War and Peace

ISBN: 0192833987
ISBN 13: 9780192833983
By: Leo Tolstoy Henry Gifford Aylmer Maude Louise Maude

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Classic Classics Currently Reading Favorites Fiction Historical Fiction Literature Russian Russian Literature To Read

About this book

Tolstoy's epic masterpiece intertwines the lives of private and public individuals during the time of the Napoleonic wars and the French invasion of Russia. The fortunes of the Rostovs and the Bolkonskys, of Pierre, Natasha, and Andrei, are intimately connected with the national history that is played out in parallel with their lives. Balls and soirees alternate with councils of war and the machinations of statesmen and generals, scenes of violent battles with everyday human passions in a work whose extraordinary imaginative power has never been surpassed. The prodigious cast of characters, seem to act and move as if connected by threads of destiny as the novel relentlessly questions ideas of free will, fate, and providence. Yet Tolstoy's portrayal of marital relations and scenes of domesticity is as truthful and poignant as the grand themes that underlie them. In this revised and updated version of the definitive and highly acclaimed Maude translation, Tolstoy's genius and the power of his prose are made newly available to the contemporary reader.

Reader's Thoughts

Nikki

War and Peace was one of those books I always intended to get round to, someday, when I had more time. Since I'm unlikely to find myself with more free time than I have now in the future, it's probably for the best that my dad dared me to read the whole book -- he was quite specific about this -- including the epilogue. The whole epilogue. In translation, obviously, although he did jokingly suggest I learn Russian first and try it then.I have to say, I loved it. The quote on the spine of my edition is: "It's a book that you don't just read, you live." And to some extent, that's true. I started out reading it intending to read one hundred pages a day -- a pretty easy goal for me, and one I thought I could keep up, even if I found the book boring. Then one day I had quite a bit of free time and... I read three hundred pages in a single day. And after that, the book was virtually never out of my hand, unless I needed both hands to eat dinner or play a video game (or, to be realistic, type -- I live and die a ten fingered typist). It went everywhere with me.The characters in this book came to life in my head. I loved the Rostovs, aww'd at Pierre, and adored Andrei. I didn't think I'd like the old Prince Bolkonsky, but I ended up loving him too. The characters are written so well. There's so many of them, yet they all stick in my head. Every single one of them had some life, even if they whirled in and out of the story and had only a handful of chapters they even appeared in. Obviously, I'm no judge of the accuracy of the translation, but I liked the way it was written.The thing I didn't get on so well with was the philosophising about war. I'm not very familiar with the period in history discussed, so I had a little trouble following that. The second part of the epilogue struck me as both unnecessary -- the main narrative got all those points across -- and extremely boring. In fact, I sort of wondered how Tolstoy had got a time travel machine and sat in on my Religious Studies A Level, because a lot of the stuff about free will came right out of my syllabus. (I concluded he was probably a soft determinist, in case anyone wanted to know.)I'm giving it five stars because it sucked me in so much and made me care so much, despite the bits I didn't so much enjoy.

Marvin

Written for the Celebrity Death Match Review TournamentThe bout is held at the house of Natalya "Natasha" Ilyinichna Rostova. Mrs. Beeton arrives with a present of clotted cream. "How thoughtful" says The Countess Rostova. "I have prepared tea for your arrival""Why, Thank you, Countess", Mrs. Beeton sits on a comfortable chair as the Countess' maid pours tea."Please. Call me Natasha""This is a very cozy place, Natasha." sniffs Mrs. Beeton. "Are these scones""Why yes, Mrs, Beeton. I have read your book. We Russians are not as barbaric as you may think. I found your advice on managing the servants quite helpful. And Russians love big extravagant parties."Mrs. Beeton chuckles. "Well. It appears I have brought a bit of England to majestic Moscow."Natasha smiles. "I hope you will stay for dinner and meet the family.""I would love too. A fancy Russian meal, I hope.""Mrs Beeton. It is the 21st century and things have changed a bit, even in Russia.""How so, Natasha?""We're going to McDonald's"Mrs. Beeton screams and runs out the door.Natasha sips her tea. "That was easy".

JSou

This originally was my read-at-home-only-book. Reasons being: 1) it's heavy, 2) I didn't want to look like a pretentious douche toting War and Peace around, 3) my embarrassment at not having read it yet, and 4) it's heavy.This ended up being so good, I actually ventured outside with it more than once. Sure, the book is all over the place, Tolstoy throws in quite a few hate-filled Napoleon rants, and the boring strategic war scenes are kind of awful, but still, this was AAH-MAZING. (Even with that second epilogue. Good God, what was that?)But really, this was great. There were so many great characters--even the ones I hated I still loved. I know Andrey, Natasha, and Pierre will stick with me forever.

Litchick (is stuck in the 19th century)

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forever just because...

Ben

War and Peace - this title could suggest a contrast within the story, two different states, where we discover people who learn about themselves through experience. Instead, I think Tolstoy joins these two bitterly divided opposites to describe one consistent condition of humanity. Rather than thinking of conflict versus harmony, I see a common experience of yearning between the masses and the individual. While we glare into the glow of Pierre, Prince Andrei and others during their transient epiphanies, and see the French and Russian armies pillage and murder in the name of conquest and national glory, we realize, only through the philosophical explanations provided by Tolstoy, how the errors in popular historical analysis, our adopted science for understanding history which credit men such as Napoleon and Aleksandr for causing the war, match the fruitless employment of reason in the pursuit of happiness and meaning.The book itself re-imagines the novel. As a fusion of storyline and philosophical treatise, we understand the book as a mirror to life itself with all of our deepest concerns and miseries - our most cherished serenity and elation. Tolstoy, who refuted critics who categorized his work as a novel, transforms himself from an imaginative creator into an artistic conduit. His philosophical diatribes serve to defend the reality of his fiction, the reasonable nature of his portrayals. He morphs fiction into one of the truest representations of ourselves. He does not employ many literary devices, though his realist's perspective adds to the credence of his ideas. I like to think that he found life's essence, developed this insight, and then saw it in such contradictory states as war and peace. This insight unifies all life, good or evil. But this insight also exposes the mistakes we make.Pierre eventually understands the folly of pursuing life's meaning with intellect, in the same way as Tolstoy argues for the folly in popular practices of historical analysis. Pierre develops an awareness of God's presence all around him. I loved Tolstoy's metaphor of the telescope aimed toward distant, blurry objects which we assume have mysterious and profound meaning simply because we don't see them clearly. We spend our lives calibrating the telescope only to realize that the answers that we seek sit clearly within our natural reach. When Pierre understands this, he no longer seeks to clarify those distant objects. Like Prince Andrei, he fails to see the point. Though Prince Andrei follows a different path, I imagine he and Pierre as relay runners, with one handing the baton to the next runner after making a spiritual breakthrough. And consider Natasha, who, throughout the story, exemplifies the living form of happiness, a state which attracts both Pierre and Prince Andrei because it symbolizes what they desire to experience themselves. Before their respective spiritual awakenings, they yearn to share in her experience, to wake themselves within the happiness she had found. Yet Natasha never chases anything. She simply lives and loves life. During the civilian storyline, we might say that the characters eventually embrace consciousness rather than their former tools of reason. In terms of the war, and Tolstoy's arguments against historians, we might say that historians adopt reason over consciousness and freedom over necessity. While Tolstoy maintains that millions of microcosmic circumstances of human experience inevitably initiates and perpetuates the war, and all historical events, historians like to reasonably describe Napoleon and others as free military geniuses or blockheads who just decide, free from any cause, to lead a million men into murderous battle against one another. If necessity (in the sense that an incomprehensible trail of cause and effect leads to the inevitable and unavoidable culmination of an event) prescribes the war, then, in the same sense, simple consciousness of being ought to lead to the discovery of meaning and truth in life. Reason and freedom (in the sense that we exist outside the power of cause and effect) try to arrest power from life and falsely praise mankind as the progenitor of their own state of existence. Man's faculties for reason cannot truly uncover the cause or effects behind human events, nor can it uncover the cause and effect of happiness. But in knowing the power, or lack thereof, which orchestrates history and in realizing the pomposity of free will directing its course, and opening ourselves to a spiritual consciousness of life which cultivates divine love within us, we discover happiness within this life.Later, Tolstoy would illustrate the philosophical differences between reason and consciousness, freedom and necessity. Pierre abandons the former for the latter and in so doing experiences a sublime happiness in life. Imagine if someone did figure out the meaning of life and the key to living happily through intellectual means. They would then need to attentively analyze and choose each of their moves, decide whether that move conforms to their mental construct of happiness, and never experience the simple life infused with a natural love and spiritual light. Man must regurgitate the apple. What happiness awaits someone who must perform conscientious perfection? Pierre no longer proactively seeks to perfect his fellow man because of some self-righteous penance. He lives his answers. He does not need to think about them or pursue them from afar. Reason holds the answers at bay, keeps them across the table like a conversationalist, while experience and awareness allows them to fuse with our being. Then we see what we've always had.Of course, one might accuse Tolstoy of perpetrating one of the great literary ironies by composing an extensive work of intellectual art which encourages simple consciousness of life. But we imagine our lives as a journey forward, toward something unknown, when perhaps Tolstoy indicates that the journey actually brings us back from a distance to ourselves, to a home we know very little about.

Emily May

So... I did it. I finally convinced myself to read War and Peace, partly because it's just something everyone wants to say they've done, and partly because one always needs a good excuse to procrastinate during the exam period when I should have been studying. And, you know what, I really enjoyed most of it. The novel is far less taxing than I imagined, I don't know if that's because the English translation goes easy on us non-Russians or because Tolstoy wrote it in a quite light-hearted fashion. I suspect I shall never find that out for myself.Personally, I think a much better title for this book would be War and People. Because, though an in-depth look at history during the time Napoleon had ambitions to take over Europe, this is first and foremost about humanity and Tolstoy observes humanity and all its weirdness with a sense of humour and occasionally sadness. I don't like to make too many predictions about the older authors, some people will tell you that Bram Stoker was a feminist and William Shakespeare was a humanist, I think these are quite melodramatic conclusions to make about authors who lived in societies where they would struggle to be that.However, Tolstoy may or may not consider himself liberal, forward-thinking, a humanist, and I wouldn't state that he is any of those things. But I think his perception of the human condition in the nineteenth century shows he is somewhat before his time in his ability to see almost every character as flawed, confusing but ultimately human. He manages to construct a comphrehensive view of humanity and Russian culture at the time in question, complete with betrayals and scandals and affairs. But though the characters may place blame on one another - like calling Natasha a hussy - Tolstoy appears to remain impartial. Those who stray from the conservative path of the nineteenth century do not do so without reason.Another reason that War and People is a much better title for this book is because there is very little peace going on in here. There are times when the battles aren't raging, of course, but there is always something equally dramatic happening within the social world of Russian high society. People falling in and out of love, people having affairs, wealthy aristocrats dying and leaving their fortune to illegitimate sons. It seems to me that there's a constant war going on in this book, just sometimes it isn't on the battlefield.And oddly enough, it was the real wars in War and Peace that interested me least of all. They were probably the reason this book got four stars instead of five - and because goodreads rating system is about personal enjoyment rather than literary merit. I felt much more entertained by the soap opera that was the lives of the Russian nobles than by the tedious and repetitive battle scenes. There were guns and canons and horses - riveting. But thankfully, like I said, Tolstoy's masterpiece is more about people than anything else and this is the reason that I saw this book through and enjoyed the journey.

David

I feel like I have been reading War & Peace forever. I'm used to reading about a book per week, and this mammoth took me four months! It somehow felt like a longer book than In Search of Lost Time, and probably too about as long to read despite being 1/3-1/4 the length. While the content is often spot-on and interesting, there are problems with the construction of War & Peace that make it an interminable read. Firstly, the book is not purely novel. It is a hybrid blend of novel, historical theory, and military journalism. While we primarily follow the times and trials of the Rostovs, Bezuhovs, and Bolkonskys, we also follow the personal and militaristic exploits of Napoleon, Tsar Alexander, and Kutuzov, et al. There are also lenghty discussions about history, the interpretation of history, and the over-valuation of freewill of individuals. While Tolstoy is masterful in all of these contexts, his jumps between them feel abrupt and stall the momentum of the novel. Likewise, because of the broad scope of the novel, the many characters, locations, and exploits, the jumping between narratives also results in a slackened momentum. As soon as I am getting into the story of Prince Andrey, I am transported to the drawing rooms of Petersburg or Moscow and must re-immerse myself in the story of Pierre or the Rostovs. Fortunately all of the narratives are quite compelling (unlike the insufferable Levin/farming slogs in Anna Karenina).It has been said, by whom I don't know - but seemingly repeated by everyone willy-nilly, that War & Peace is "about everything." I don't know that I agree with this statement, but nonetheless it does cover a large tapestry of the human condition and particularly Russian society. However, I find much more of life in Proust, or in Joyce, than I do in War & Peace - and for that matter, I find more in Anna Karenina. While the present novel has a certainly very large scope, and a truly epic feel, it lacks some of the emotional depth of character that I have seen in Tolstoy's other "big book." Comparing Natasha to Anna is to show how paltry the development of the former and the sophistication and vibrancy of the latter. While the are characters which seem to be well-developed and complex, such as Pierre, or at times Prince Andrey and Princess Marya, many of the characters seem to be stock characters or one-dimensional. There is little on can say about Petya Rostov, about Anatole Kuragin, about Elena Bezuhov, etc. Many of the characters weave in and out of the narrative and play important roles only in so far as they orbit the novel's major celestial bodies. On the contrary, the narrower scope of Anna Karenina (certainly a family drama as opposed to a national epic) allows for a complexity in character for all the major and sub-major characters, from the Oblonskys to the Karenins, the Vronskys, the Levins.What seems to be a chief interest of the younger Tolstoy is the role of history as an external force. A force which is at one and the same time the culmination of many freewills, and also a separate and predetermined force. He is prone to pointing out that while Napoleon is credited with the campaign of the French army, his successes would have been impossible without the voluntary choices and freewills of all of the men beneath him. Though he gave orders, many times they were not received on the battle field, etc. Tolstoy holds few punches in diminishing Napoleon's accomplishments, and accredits history, the motive force of some predetermined trajectory, with many of his successes and also failures. Strangely, Tolstoy spends a significant portion of the latter part of the novel defending the strategic choices of commander in chief Kutuzov, though by his own logic, his role was as insignificant.It is unusual for me to read "historical fiction" - it always feels a bit stilted to put words and emotions and glances onto the body of someone who truly existed, felt, and moved. Having learned about Napoleon, about Alexander, there is a distance from me which they have in my mind. They are separated from me by death. And rather than having the effect of communing with the dead, I rather feel I am communing with their impostors, with well disguised mannequins, who look and are addresses as Napoleon, as Kutuzov, as Tsar Alexander, but are wholly unoriginal. Conversely, I feel that the barrier between reality and fiction is much thinner - I feel that I have lived with Pierre, with Natasha, and Nikolay and Andrey, I have lived side-by-side with them for four months, they feel very real to me, though they are simply inventions of Tolstoy's imagination. Their roles in history are minor, but the scope of the novels establishes their personal histories, which I can relate to as a person. The life of Napoleon is incomprehensible to me, it is too large, on too grand a scale, but the troubles of Pierre Bezuhov seem to exist for me on the same earth as my own struggles, my own life. I have not fought a war, nor joined the free masons, nor married a harlot, but I have felt as Pierre has felt - he could exist in any place or time, and it only so-happens that he was born into the realm of history, while Napoleon seems to have given birth to that history.

David Lentz

"War and Peace" is probably the finest literary novel of the 19th century. No serious reader's bookshelf is complete without this masterpiece and the pages fly by because the writing, characters and story line are so beautifully composed. I can't recommend this novel highly enough. If you enjoy it, then please take a closer look at Vasily Grossman's "Life and Fate" which is another, lesser known, 20th century masterpiece inspired by Tolstoy. What are the thoughts of Napoleon as he crosses into Russia? How does he feel after advancing to Moscow to find it abandoned and ultimately aflame? If you were Kutuzov, the Russian Commander-in-Chief, how would you counter a military mind like Napoleon? If you were Tsar Alexander I, how would you greet, or rather or not address, Napoleon demanding surrender of the city in his quest for Asia? If you were a citizen of Russia and witness to this battle of military titans like Tolstoy, how would you capture it on paper? Who would have the audacity, the brilliance, the scope, the pure talent to encompass such an epic and render it sensible? Tolstoy gets into the minds of his epic cast and creates astonishing characters of people who shaped the history of his day. He was Pierre Bezuhov, perhaps, more than anyone and yet he was all of them. The miracle is that Tolstoy rarely ventured far from his country estate. He barely glimpsed the high society about which he wrote so convincingly, so authoritatively and so genuinely. This book makes my all-time Top Five List: it's a supreme literary experience. Daunting though it may seem by its sheer volume, I swear to you, it reads quickly as you become engrossed in this incredible epic tale. The novel's straight-ahead narrative style is easy to comprehend once you place the characters into proper perspective. Each figure is a gem crafted by virtue of his or her character through Tolstoy's gifted portrait work. The women are beautiful and deep, the men are bright and courageous, the turbulent times were a crucible for them all. This is truly a one-of-a-kind masterpiece: it's one of life's great treasures. You owe it yourself to take on this epic work: you will be generously rewarded for your own ambition. You'll never forget it -- ever.

Michelle

Since this is the 3rd time I’ve read War and Peace, I think I have some good advice for how to maximize your appreciation of it, besides being 30 years older the 3rd time.It is a historical novel, but I think the first two times that I read it, I did so without comprehending the historical parts and only retained the plot narrative as it pertained to the characters. However to appreciate it for its full breadth, I would recommend the following:First: know some history about Napoleon, at a minimum, know he was from Corsica, from a big family, know about Toulon, and know about the Napoleonic wars from 1805 through 1812. Spend two or three hours on the “cliff notes“ version of his life. Then another hour on 1805. The best way to learn about the French invasion of Russia in 1812, (referred to in Russia as the Patriotic War) is to read “DEFEAT, Napoleon’s Russian Campaign” by Philippe de Segur, which was written by one of Napoleon’s aides during that war, but was written ten+ years afterwards. A must read.Second, know some Russian history, specifically between the years 1800-1812. Know that Emperor Alexander was only 24 when he became emperor, by essentially a Russian version of a coup d’état. The inner circle detested his father Emperor Paul, son of Catherine the Great, so they murdered him making Alexander the Emperor. The Russians (at the time) had a thing for their dynasty, the Romanovs, and whenever they didn’t like the emperor they just went down the line to another one, sometimes a wife (Catherine the Great) or brother, not always the son. This also helps to explain their fierce devotion to the emperor by all classes of society. The Devil you know is better than the devil you don't. Plus he.she is Russian (well, except for Catherine the Great)Third, know that you are not reading a novel in the normal use of the word. Even at the time it was written, people were confused. It has a basic plot about the lives of four Russian families, and their dramas. It also follows some of the male members of these families as they go to war, in 1805 and later on up to 1812. These male members happen to observe many historical figures such as Napoleon, Alexander, General Kutuzov and of course happen to be where critical historical turning points occurred. In short, the book presents both the home front and the war front. But even beyond this, Tolstoy writes a lot about history, the philosophy of history, how historians make mistakes and made mistakes in their interpretations of the events described in the book. He also philosophizes about war, why men make war, and presents the point of view that in some cases, maybe all cases, war is inevitable; being the confluence of four or five circumstances beyond any one person’s control. Then he’ll write a passage suggesting that Napoleon isn’t necessarily responsible for the destruction because he wasn’t the one pulling the triggers. That passage reminded me of Buffy Sainte Marie’s famous song Universal Soldier. It’s interesting to note that Tolstoy became a pacifist later in life. I wonder how many theses and dissertations were written about the correlation between the massive research he must have done on these wars that cost hundreds of thousands of lives, and this later philosophy of his. Fourth the translation. When I read it during class at UC Berkeley in 1978, the translator was Constance Garnett. I don’t remember who the translator was the second time, probably the same. The 3rd time the translator was Maude but ¾ of the way through I switched to Pevear and Volokhonsky which came out in 2007. I also continued to read some passages by Maude. In short, I recommend you just read Pevear and Volokhonsky. They translate the French for you, which Maude does not, and also it is just easier to read. They also maintain they are truer to the original Russian, and give examples in the preface, comparing their translation with two or three others. I was sold. If you do this, your first read of War and Peace will be as satisfying as my third.

Cindy

A Review in Three Parts: I. The Analytical Analysis II. The Review Here's the thing that surprised me the most about War & Peace: it's extremely readable. It's not filled with difficult or outdated language. (At least in the P&V translation.) It doesn't have long, hard to parse sentences. The action and dialogue is fairly straight-forward. The characters become easy to follow. If you are freaked out by War & Peace because you think it's hard, it's not. Although you will have to power though the utterly dull and overly-populated intro party scene. Gah.However, War & Peace is filled with endless diversions, especially history primers and theological discussions of death and minutia of battles. Tolstoy goes off on tangents, and it can take a while to get back to the story. I know some people love those tangents - I didn't. Tolstoy failed to reel me in, and make me care about the logistics of war, or his philosophies of physics in the social sciences. One quick note on the P&V translation - they left in the original French and German with translations in footnotes/endnotes. I found their annotation style to be clunky at best. In retrospect, I would have chosen the Briggs translation, even though it's not available in ebook format.What's sad is that for the first half of the book, I read slowly, deliberately, and researched stuff outside of the book. I wanted War & Peace to be a rich experience. I was reading this with quite a few people in a group, and thought I could really appreciate why people call this The Great Novel Evar! But after 650-odd pages and 6 weeks, I still wasn't engaged with the characters, the story, or the history. So I started to read faster just to get through it.I'm not saying it's a horrible book, though. The characters are well defined, and they grow and change over the years of war, struggle and collective bourgeoisie. Quite a few people in the group read-along fell in love with some of the major protagonists. Certainly for me the "home-front" story was more compelling than any other aspect of the story. Here's one way I can tell whether a book is rising above an average read for me. Do I think about the characters, the story, or the issues outside of reading the book? For War & Peace, except for our group discussions, this was a resounding No. Discussions of ladies' facial hair was the most thrilling aspect.I had a hard time getting War & Peace to rise about a "meh" for me, even considering it's proper historical literary provenance. III. Some Russian* Things I Learned samovar: troika: droshky: knout: britzka: shako: chibouk: papakha: *Not all of these things are Russian. But they are in War & Peace.

Apatt

War and bloody Peace eh? Started June 12, 2013, finished August 26, 2013! How am I supposed to review this?! I'll apply my usual rambling slapdash technique I think.War and Peace looks like a formidable challenge for the average reader, in term of length and legendary status, this is not "just another book" you can just read and forget. Personally I read fiction mainly for entertainment purposes (best past time I know), some books I read purely out of curiosity, Some books like Moby Dick I even read for a bragging right (that did not turn out well!). Any way, as far as War and Peace is concerned it's a combo of all three, I am glad to report (not brag) that the result turned out to be more than satisfactory as far as I am concerned. The most daunting part of reading this book is when you tentatively start on the first page and constantly feel aware of the remaining thousand or so pages, I think the trick is just to ignore the remaining page weighing down your right hand and just follow the characters along and see what they get up to. After all you don't need to read the entire book if you don't find the first few chapters to your liking. For myself I kind of cheated and went the audiobook route which add up to more than 60 hours in total (read with consummate skill and probably gallons of coffee by Alexander Scourby). I pity the poor chap who read it but then I remembered he probably took well over a month to finish the reading it.In term of entertainment and readability War and Peace easily met these basic requirements for me. It starts off lightly enough with a "soiree", there are several soirees in this book, they seem like high society dinner parties which I avoid like the plague at every opportunity. The reader is gently introduced to the current situation of the day and some central characters also make their first entrances. The narrative then moves from house to house and we soon meet all the central characters which there are surprisingly few in number. Yes, it's a whale of a book with a large cast of characters but there are only a few protagonists for you to concern yourself with. This book is more about the characters than about two countries at war. Looking at the title I believe it is more about peace than about war, if anything it seems like an anti-war book to me, the message is not communicated through humor and satire like Heller's Catch-22 but through Tolstoy's profound psychological insight and humanity. This makes it more serious and dryer than Heller's book and I did doze through the odd passages but over all I found it much more rewarding.The main source of pleasure for me are the beautifully developed main characters they really came alive once I settled into the groove of the book. My favorite character is certainly Pierre Bezukhov, a chubby, sensitive, thoughtful and compassionate gentleman, not your archetypal heroic figure but certainly not an anti-hero. The best part of reading the book for me was to share Pierre's thought processes. He does tend to overthink things and is prone to changing his mind about what the meaning of life really is (a bit like me but with high IQ); following his internal is akin to some kind of telepathy. The other central characters are also very nicely fleshed out and believable, particularly the main female character Natasha Rostova who practically grows up before the reader's eyes. A few real life individuals such as Mikhail Kutuzov and Napoleon Bonaparte are presented to us as part of the novel's cast of characters, whether their fictional representation is true to the real people I can not say but to live inside their heads is a fascinating experience.The prose style (from the English translated version of it) is just stupendous, Tolstoy seems to casually toss in phrases like "sorrowful pleasure" and put it in just the right context. People who like to pick quotations from a book will have a field day with this one. Nary a page goes by without finding something quotable. Here are a couple I picked almost at random: “Here I am alive, and it's not my fault, so I have to try and get by as best I can without hurting anybody until death takes over.”“Because of the self-confidence with which he had spoken, no one could tell whether what he said was very clever or very stupid.” There are dull chapters and passages in several places of the book, the practical side of warfare is of little interest to me, but those are far outweighed by wondrous materials that feed the brain and the heart. At least I picked up some know ledge about "scorched earth principle" and Kutuzov's military genius. Special mention should be made about the epilogues, the two epilogues total moire than 100 pages, the first one wraps up the story of the protagonists and their settled down lives after the war. The second epilogue is something like a treatise on the nature of power, the real causes and meanings of war and so forth. This part of the book is so dry you may want to read it while in a bath. Still, if you have the capacity to patiently absorb what Tolstoy nave to say about these weighty matter you will probably be the wiser for it.Basically the best way to read this book in whatever format is to immerse yourself in the story, the length becomes fairly insignificant once you are along for the ride, of course you need to have a lot of patience and don't expect to race to the end of the book. Come to think of it reading it just for the bragging right is probably a waste of time. I personally like this book more than Tolstoy's equally legendary Anna Karenina which I also like but I find War and Peace more emotionally resonant. Certainly I am glad I read it, and some day (a few years from now) I would be quite happy to read it again.

Matthew

I sincerely doubt that I will ever read this book again, or ever feel any desire to. I can certainly see how and why it has secured its place as part of the canon, but I did not find the characters and their lives compelling enough to overcome the annoyance I felt with Tolstoy's personal vision of history and life in general. There were moments when I came to care about what was going on in the book. I sympathized with Prince Andrey's broken heart and Pierre's search for meaning and I was genuinely interested in what choice Nikolay would make in regards to Sonya and Marya... some of the time. Prince Andrey recedes into the background in the latter half of the book, only to reappear briefly so that he can die a sudden, anticlimactic and boring death. Pierre meanders so aimlessly between various ideas and goals that I could only become frustrated with him and Nikolay is at times such a flat lifeless character that I could not care at all about him one way or the other. War and Peace is so large that no story line ever comes to fruition and instead of being a truly complex epic it seemed to me that it was only the raw material from which several great books could have been made. Without any genuine interest in the characters I could only hope that War and Peace would be, in some way, intellectually interesting but I found it even more deficient in this regard. Tolstoy does not believe in free will, great men, the usefulness of rational thought, or military science. I know these things because Tolstoy uses these ideas like a cudgel, beating the reader about the head and shoulders. He does not trust in the reader enough to allow them to draw the ideas from the story and so makes numerous digressions to explain the same opinion as he just explained some fifty pages ago, using almost the same words, as often as not. Worse yet, the second epiloge is devoted exclusively to reiterating them one final time, using only the barest semblance of a rational argument, which is hardly surprising since he has already told us time and again that it is impossible to change any ones mind using words, and the only knowledge that matters is that which comes from ones gut and mystical revelation.In final summation, the only other book that has ever produced such a visceral exhasperation in me is Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Perhaps, as with Atlas Shrugged, time will change my opinion of War and Peace, but I am not hopeful

Jessica

So, I know you've all been on edge these past two months, and since I should be studying for the social work licensing exam tonight, it seems like the perfect time to put an end to your suspense.After all my agonizing and the thoughtful suggestions below about whether I should mutilate my gorgeous hardcover Pevear and Volokhonsky translation in the interest of less hazardous subway toting.... Readers, I carried him. All 1272 pages. Every day, across five boroughs and three states, for nearly two months....So the burning question on your mind is, "Should I risk misalignment and a redislocated shoulder in the interest of preserving a pristine edition that's inevitably going to get all banged up anyway, as I lug it across battlefields and through trenches, for what seems an eternity? Which is more important: the book's spine, or my own?"Bookster, I am here to put an end to all this wondering! Here is what you must do: simply take a keen exacto knife (you might ask a helpful Cossack to sharpen it for you), and slice out the final "Epilogue" portion of this burdensome tome. You will do no damage to the book -- the epilogue's like an appendix (and hey, what the hell, cut that out too) -- as this part is not necessary, and in fact though it's theoretically only about 7% of the book, this portion is actually responsible for at least 63% of its weight. So slice that bitch out, and throw it away! Your vertebrae will thank you later.Another advantage to getting rid of the Epilogue is that it will save you from having to read what is conceivably the most deadly dull and deflating ending to a vast and magnificently readable book, ever written. As a particularly exacting size queen, I demand that the glory of a huge novel's ending be proportional to its length. I feel this is only fair: I was loyal and patient, and devoted many hours to reading the author's story, and at the end I should be rewarded for my fortitude with a glorious finale. That's always been my philosophy, anyway. Apparently, though, it's not Tolstoy's.What is Tolstoy's philosophy, you ask? In particular, what's his philosophy of history? Well, let me tell you! Or better, let him tell you. Cause he will. Over and over. And then again. And then, in case you were interested and wanted to know more, let him REALLY tell you.... and keep telling you.... and tell you some more.... and some more.... no, let him get into it finally now, in great detail.Yeah, Tolstoy's that perfect house guest who crashed on your couch for nearly two months and you're just thrilled as hell the whole time to have him visiting, because he's just such a smart and great and interesting and heartfelt guy. Quel raconteur! Oh, sure, sometimes he gets a bit dull and wonky with his policy ramblings, but that stuff's basically okay. And then yeah, he's got these ideés fixes about history that are fine, you guess, but it's a bit weird how he's always repeating them and focusing on the same points over and over, and he will corner your roommate's friend or a classmate you run into at the supermarket, or an old lady waiting for the bus, to explain yet again why he thinks Napoleon really isn't that great at ALL, yeah, that's odd, but basically Leo is just super, and you're thrilled to have him -- even for such an extended visit -- because he really is so brilliant and diverting and nearly truly worth his weight in gold.... You are sad to know he's going to leave, but then his plane is delayed and you're happy you'll have him there just one more night, but somehow that's the night that he suddenly decides to come back to your house, completely high on cocaine. Leo then proceeds to stay up for hours drinking all your expensive scotch and talking your EAR off about his goddamn PHILOSOPHY of HISTORY that you really just could not care LESS about, and he WILL not leave and let you go to bed, he keeps TALKING, and it's BORING, and apparently he thinks your catatonic stare signals rapt interest, because he just keeps on going, explaining, on and on -- He WILL NOT SHUT UP! It is almost just like being physically tortured, by this guy who you'd thought was the best houseguest in the whole wide world. And so when Leo finally leaves again the next morning -- ragged and bleary and too dazed still to be properly sheepish -- you're not sorry to see him go, in fact you're very glad. And does one annoying night cancel out two months of the great times you had together? Of course it doesn't, and you remember him fondly, and tell anyone who asks how nice it was when he stayed. But the night does carry a special weight because it was the last, and when you remember dear Leo, your wonderful houseguest, your affection will not be totally untainted by the memory of his dull, egotistical, coked-out rantings, the night before he left for real.By which I mean to say, the rest of this book was totally great! As my Great Aunt Dot (who's read this twice) commented, "It's really not a difficult read at all; there's a chapter about War, and then a chapter about Peace, so it never gets boring." War and Peace is hugely entertaining, and largely readable. Plus, it's enormously educational, as you will be forced to learn more than you ever wanted to know about the great Napoleon! (According to Tolstoy, he wasn't that great. No, I mean really, he wasn't that great.) War and Peace is a terrific date book, because it's got lots of bloody action and also tons of romance, plus you can make out during the dull parts where Tolstoy's talking for like twelve pages about various generals and strategies and his nineteenth-centuried out opinions about history.If there's a standard I value more highly than my long-book-great-ending demand, it's the one that I call "Make Me Cry." I don't really think a book's that great unless it makes me cry. (No, this doesn't work in the other direction -- just because a book makes me cry doesn't mean it's great. I've cried at really silly movies before, and I used to cry regularly whenever I read the newspaper, which is one reason I stopped.) War and Peace made me cry like a colicky baby that's been speared with a bayonet, THREE TIMES! I don't mean I misted up or got a little chokey -- I mean I sobbed, wept, and groaned, thoroughly broke down and lost my shit on a very cathartic and soul-rending level. Hooray! I can't guarantee that War and Peace will also make you cry, but I bet if you're prone to that sort of thing, you've got a good shot.GOD this book is good. See, you should really skip the Epilogue, because besides being crushingly dull, it's also very depressing (in the wrong way), and in addition to making you vow never to marry could make you forget how GREAT and AMAZING the rest of this is. What a GREAT and AMAZING book! Holy shit! I'm flipping through now, and it's all coming back to me. This was totally The Wire of 1868: If you like serious character development and plotting that unfolds over a long period of time, you should seriously read this book. I really didn't know much about this book before I read it, but I think I remember someone -- Jane Smiley? -- writing that War and Peace is about everything. I wouldn't go along with that (I'm not sure if she would either), but it is about most of the things that really matter. If you are someone who thinks at all about life or death, you might like this book. Here is a passage, from a character who's a POW marching barefoot through Russia in October:In captivity in the shed, [he] had learned, not with his mind, but with his whole being, his life, that man is created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the satisfying of human needs, and that all unhappiness comes not from lack, but from superfluity; but now, in these last three weeks of the march, he had learned a new and more comforting truth -- he had learned that there is nothing frightening in the world. He had learned that, as there is no situation in the world in which a man can be happy and perfectly free, so there is no situation in which he can be perfectly unhappy and unfree. He had learned that there is a limit to suffering and a limit to freedom, and that those limits are very close; that the man who suffers because one leaf is askew in his bed of roses, suffers as much as he now suffered falling asleep on the bare, damp ground, one side getting cold as the other warmed up; that when he used to put on his tight ballroom shoes, he suffered just as much as now, when he walked quite barefoot (his shoes had long since worn out) and his feet were covered with sores. (p. 1060)I just think that's great. Maybe it's not, out of context.... Anyway, one of the best things about reading this is how much of it is so strange -- Russia! 1812! OMFG! all so different! -- and how much is the same. The nuance, specificity, and instant recognizability of the characters in here is pretty amazing. I know this sounds dumb, but you really feel like you know these people, and in a way it's the minor characters -- Sonya, Anatole, Dolokhov (my favorite!) -- who are so perfectly drawn, and make you go, "Man! I know these people! Woah!"I did appreciate having to think about war while reading this, because that's something I've never really done before. At the beginning I'd hoped that this would help me understand more about why wars happen, but it didn't. That might have been what Tolstoy was trying to explain in his Epilogue, but I have to confess that at that point, I wasn't really listening.Anyway, I liked this book. It is long, though.

Emma Rj

This book is bloated old piece of crap. How this even got published in the first place is beyond me, much less how it has been considered a 'classic' for years.I had read that this was 1400 pages of Tolstoy giving his readers a dry, boring recount of the French invasion of Russia but I didn't believe it. I wish I had believed it. Not only is War and Peace a sleep-inducing lecture on way too many perspectives of this war, it also comes complete with Tolstoy's never-ending butt-in chapters that he uses to force his opinion on us of France, Napoleon, Alexander, Russia itself, religion, politics, love, family, and anything else that apparently came to his mind.This was worse than a textbook. This was a textbook that came with the annoying, opinionated professor built in! The only slightly interesting parts of this book were the lives of Natasha and Ellen and that only accounts for maybe 15% of the total. This book is so bad it has two epilogues. That right there should be warning enough to you to stay far, far away from War and Peace. Don't be as dumb as me.I wish I had never picked this up. I am an angrier, more cynical person for it. If Tolstoy wasn't already dead, I would wish him so.

Leonard

Beyond the panoramic Battles of Austerlitz and Borodino, the muffled burning of Moscow and Napoleon’s dilapidated retreat, Tolstoy in War and Peace painted the Napoleonic War’s dislodging the cast of characters from their apparel concerns, gossipy sorties, troubled marriages and career ambitions and through their social clumsiness, oppressive ideals, spiritual dullness and determined naivete, extorted their unavoidable responses to these tidal waves.The Battle of AusterlitzWhile Napoleon sought to drive history’s course through his lashing will and reining determination by marching onto Moscow, Kutuzov by sensing and attuning to the historical current tactically retreated beyond Moscow and after the Napoleonic army’s natural dissipation trailed its chaotic retreat. Tolstoy, who believed historical crosswinds to be too complicated for any Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan to align, favored Kutuzov’s naturalistic craftsmanship and through Pierre, applied it to personal destiny.The Battle of BorodinoAfter his wife had left him, Pierre’s clumsy and sometimes-comic search for meaning led him to freemasonry, whose esoteric philosophy failed to pave a new path beyond the thorns and thistles. Although he accepted life storms serenely, his what for and so what would continue to harass him until he met Karataev, who showed him the life unified to the land, the sea and the air and harmonious with their rhythms¾a mystical naturalism favored by Tolstoy. However, at the novel’s conclusion, our hero’s life as a conscientious nobleman, a contributing intelligentsia and an accommodating family man, perhaps a sign that age would squander aspirations and the years would sap physical and emotional energy, smelled of defeat to his previous pilgrimage. On the other hand, Andrei’s escaping from marriage, career and the mundane drudgery, and impulsively grasping after the wintry Polaris led to the battlefield where he almost died. Although Natasha’s love provided respite, her unfaithfulness confirmed his suspicion of an earthly Eden. In the end, even though he had forgiven her, he gave up that love for the ultimate rainbow, death, wherein he finally could rest. If he had not died, he probably would have been disillusioned by his love for Natasha. Leo TolstoyIt is sad that Andrei had given up youth, love and the possibilities of life, but it is equally sad that Pierre had decayed into a Nikolai Rostov after his courageous journey through what for and so what. Must we like the samurai commit seppuku to immortalize youth, vitality, creativity and aspiration so as not to decay into a grumpy and lecherous old man or a jealous and nagging old woman? Tolstoy’s determinism would dictate that Pierre would ultimately return to the natural cycle of birth, growth, education, career, marriage, procreation, contribution, decay and death. But whether we agree with Tolstoy or not, War and Peace would continue to tower above the greatest novels.

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