Published in: 1865
Edition read: E-book
War and Peace is considered one of the world’s greatest works of fiction. It is regarded, along with Anna Karenina, as Tolstoy’s finest literary achievement.
Epic in scale, War and Peace delineates in graphic detail events leading up to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families.
This book was surprisingly easy to read and actually interesting and good. Having read Anna Karenina previously and hating it (It was 600+ pages on 19th century Russian farming and apparently ‘romance’, though I struggled to find the romance in that book…) so I started this one with dread, thinking it’d be pretty bad too but I wanted to read it before watching the BBC 6-part mini-series. Well, I was bloody surprised as it was good, right up to the last 200 pages. Then it went downhill. But the first 1,500 pages were pretty great!
So, the characters were varied and I found that I liked Bolkonski and Pierre, and Nicholas Rostov, and Natasha Rostov. I hated Pierre’s wife Helene (What a whore!) and Princess Mary (What a bore!) and Sonya (Nicholas could definitely do better). Prince Bolkonski was an asshat especially to poor doting Mary, I didn’t understand at all Mary’s french companion, and Denisov seemed like a good guy. Didn’t like Anatole, felt he got what he deserved in the end although hated the fact that we don’t know if he lived or died, just that he was down a leg at the last time we saw him.
There were some sweet romances, Natasha and Bolkonski was very sweet at the end indeed, and I adore her marriage choice; and there were some brilliant fight scenes, the historical element was on point- I wikipedia’d many of the characters to find that yes, they were real people and they did do these things. Really, up til the last 200 pages, I was loving this book and found that the nearly 2,000 pages wasn’t as daunting as initially expected because it was a pleasure to read…. and then, 200 pages, left, and it’s like someone else came in to finish the book, and he was a nut job.
So towards the end of the book, the story kinda peters out and you get less of the ‘peace’ (aka characters and their romantic entanglements) and more of the ‘war’ (aka the actual Russian war against Napoleon and their movements and battles etc). This wasn’t bad as it was quite interesting, but during these parts you’d get passages where Tolstoy would have a mild rant about Napoleon- this guy doesn’t like him, btw. Then it gets to be a chapter of ranting… then chapters…. and then the last 100 pages is pure ranting by a madman. Napoleon is clearly the enemy and a buffoon, which Tolstoy will argue in circles- he argues free will, in circles, mentioning “If i can lift my arm up at my own will, isn’t that free will?” not once, not twice, but multiple times in the space of just a few pages… Seriously. He goes around in circles. This argument we went through two chapters ago? Let’s rehash it again. Oh and we’ll rehash the rehash in three chapters time, hope you don’t mind.
The last 100 pages I skimmed to see if any actual story came into play or if it was batshit insane ramblings. It was all batshit insane ramblings. So when we last have proper story involving the characters of the book, 100+ pages prior to the book ending, it ends with a vague scene where the main characters have quarreled over differing views… and that’s it. There’s no sense of an ending, no final words, no sweet scene to end it… nothing. The Rostovs had an older sister named Vera, I thought she might come back in the end but nup. Never hear of her again. Anatole, did he live or die? Who knows, Tolstoy doesn’t bring him into the story ever again, but we are reminded of him when one of the damn characters wonders if he lived or died. What happened to Helene’s various lovers after her death? Who knows. I hope they beat each other up. Remember that guy at the beginning whose mother gets him a prime post in the army? Whatever happened to him? Who knows, never heard of him again. Instead of tying up loose ends or having actual story, we have mad ramblings.
It was a sour ending to what had been a pretty great book.
War and Peace rating: Up to that ending, it was a solid 8/10. Seriously. That ending though, brought it down to a 6.5/10 because no ending, no wrapping up of stories, and mad rambelings that gave me a headache. Bad Tolstoy.
Would I re-read it? Ignoring the size of the book and those last pages, yes. The actual story was good, I would enjoy re-reading this behemoth of literature. I’d just skip Part 16 and Part 17 of the book because they were useless.
Who would I recommend it to? Anyone watching the mini-series, read the book. People who enjoy history, literature, Russian literature, romances, war in great detail.
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18714880-war-and-peaceBecause of the age of the book, you can download free copies and read this on your various devices: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2600