I have finally done it; I have completed the Mount Everest of books – Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Like climbing Mount Everest, finishing War and Peace is a feat that only a few can claim and now I am one of those people.
War and Peace chronicles the war between Napoleon Bonaparte of France and Alexander of Russia first in 1807 and then again in 1812. Many aristocratic viewpoints of the wars is looked at from the Russian side. The most notable characters are Prince Andrew Bolkonski, Bastard Pierre Bezukov, Count Nicholas Rostov, and Nicholas’s charming sister Natasha. During times of war even the wealthy willingly go off to defend their fatherland.
War and Peace basically jumps back and forth between two sections: the home life and the war life. I very much enjoyed the war life more.
In 1807 Nicholas Rostov was a young man who thought war was the greatest thing ever. He was absolutely in love with Emperor Alexander.
“[It is] better to die a thousand times than risk receiving an unkind look or bad opinion from him”
That was 1807. In 1812 Nicholas was a little bit older and [hopefully] a little wiser and he realized that war just isn’t what it’s cut out to be. Unfortunately his younger brother has to learn that lesson on his own.
All the characters in War and Peace changed throughout the book and perhaps none changed more than Pierre Bezukov. Pierre is perpetually lost and is always looking for some way to fill that void he feels is missing in his life. For some reason everyone in the book seemed to be in love with Natasha who, I felt anyways, was nothing more than a spoiled brat. Prince Andrew seemed the most level headed of the lot and yet even he undergoes some self discovery as the book progresses.
When first reading War and Peace I was well prepared to say the book definitely deserved it’s legendary classic status. Leo Tolstoy’s writing is brilliant. There are various quotes from the book that I could give (and in fact I’ve jotted them down and was prepared to use them in this review), but I changed my mind. The more I kept reading the more I began to convince myself of just how much “fluff” is in the book. That is, the author writes things overly complicated for no other reason than because he can. The author takes every chance he can to show his knowledge of history, military, Science, Mathematics, nature, philosophy, etc. A lot of times it was just awkward because it totally did not fit into the particle paragraph or wherever he happens to throw it in.
So so book. Go ahead and read it just so you can claim that you have done so, but it’s definitely not worth a re-read in my opinion. Great writing. Great story. Just way too long for what it was.