I am currently reading this hefty classic and when writing this am about halfway through. The edition I am reading is the Penguin Clothbound and it is translated by Anthony Briggs. Now I never really thought that I would read War and Peace; mainly due to the fact the size is intimidating, and I thought that it would be too dense and confusing. I shouldn’t have worried. Yes it is a big book – my edition is over a thousand pages long, but I am finding it pretty easy to read and very enjoyable.
One of the main things that I appreciate of this very well known book is that Tolstoy portrays human nature so well. No character is set apart as the villain or hero of the story. We, as the readers, are able to make our minds up about the characters, with Tolstoy seemingly remaining impartial. It is not black and white. No character is without flaws or regrets or mistakes, all of which makes them human and therefore more easy to relate to in some way. I am currently about halfway through and at this point in the book all the characters are distinctive and you wonder how you could ever have got confused about who’s who at the start of the novel. I know I have not reached the end of the novel yet, but I still feel as if I have a fair understanding of each of the characters and their frame of mind. That is what I love about this novel. It makes it very easy to get immersed in the story, because you can really connect with the characters and you want to know what happens to them.
Tolstoy’s view of humanity and Russian culture is very interesting to read about, but what I also really enjoy about War and Peace are the sections on the front line. Throughout the book the perspectives switch between the home front and the front line of the ongoing war of the French invasion of Russia. I am interested in history, and so for me the chapters around the war and the battles, which may seem boring to some people, are fascinating for me. We see the war from a few different perspective (such as Andrei and Nikolai), each from different levels of hierarchy, and that creates a better understanding of the structure of the army. How, for example, Anatole can afford to buy his way into a position, whereas someone such as Boris has to establish connections and use them wisely in order to get position higher up in the hierarchy. I will say that having a basic understanding of Russia in the 1800s and the ongoing war would have been useful – I personally have never studied Russia so know next to nothing about its history. That is not to say that you have to have knowledge of the events in the book to enjoy it. It is just the case, in my opinion, that the knowledge would provide you with a better understanding of the events. However this novel has definitely made me interested in learning more about Russian history, and reading more from Tolstoy.
I think I will leave it at that. These are just some of my thoughts from my reading of War and Peace so far. I highly recommend this book, even though I haven’t even finished it yet. I will most likely do a full review, once finished, on my Goodreads account so check that out if interested. Let me know what you thought of War and Peace if you’ve read it, and whether you liked the recent BBC adaptation… I felt it was pretty good.
See you next time.