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War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

11 Jul

 ‘At a glittering society party in St Petersburg in 1805, conversations are dominated by the prospect of war. Terror swiftly engulfs the country as Napoleon’s army marches on Russia, and the lives of three young people are changed forever. The stories of quixotic Pierre, cynical Andrey and impetuous Natasha interweave with a huge cast, from aristocrats and peasants, to soldiers and Napoleon himself. In War and Peace (1868-9), Tolstoy entwines grand themes – conflict and love, birth and death, free will and fate – with unforgettable scenes of nineteenth-century Russia,to create a magnificent epic of human life in all its imperfection and grandeur’.

At 1444 pages, War and Peace may seem a daunting size, yet the book isn’t a difficult read, unlike Crime and Punishment, War and Peace(or at least the Penguin classics edition)  dispenses with the Patronyms and multiple characters of the same name that were prevalent in the aforementioned title and leaves you free to explore the characters lives and emotions. Despite a large ensemble of characters, Tolstoy introduces them all steadily avoiding confusion, in fact apart from two pairs of characters none of the other 496 characters that are mentioned have names similar enough or the same as each other to cause any befuddlement.

Humanist and existentialist issues are tackled against a backdrop of war with Napoleon and the French. Battle scenes are juxtaposed with the frivolity of Russian high society, leading characters to question their choices in life and their world views. You really can’t get much more ambitious than this sprawling story, which is essentially three books in one, a war story, a civilian away from the war story but always with the tension  and an essay on war, history and politics. Is this the greatest ever novel? No but certainly a great one. Perhaps the sprawling nature of the book does end up giving the impression that it is all a bit of a mess but certain passages are  beautifully written and will stay in my mind until i get senile and that is afterall the point of a book that attempts to capture so many different aspects of life.

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19 Comments

Posted by on 11/07/2011 in Classics

 

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19 responses to “War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

  1. Rachelle

    11/07/2011 at 17:33

    Great book!! Long time since I’ve read it…..

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  2. Anna

    01/03/2014 at 08:08

    This book is a great challenge. I’ve been trying to read it for a long time. Not easy.

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    • Ste J

      01/03/2014 at 10:25

      It is an epic read, one thing going for it is that no two characters have the same name, well apart from two instances and one isn’t relevant and one is a blatant generation thing. I look forward to reading Anna Karenina soon as well.

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      • Anna

        01/03/2014 at 10:34

        Have you read ‘100 years of solitude’? The names there can literally drive you crazy! Although I have Anna Karenina in its Soviet publishing version, in its Russian original, I can’t seem to bring myself to read it. I assume it’s cus of the slight aversion I have towards the protagonist.

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        • Ste J

          01/03/2014 at 10:41

          100 Years employed a clever devise, each character had one defining emotion about them, once I realised that the book was easier to read through as the names didn’t muddle me as much. Thank goodness for that family tree at the front of the book as well though. Anna Karenina is Russian, wow that does sound like a challenge. What aversion could you possibly have to everyone’s favourite palindrome Anna.

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  3. Anna

    01/03/2014 at 11:02

    I never finished it, maybe I should give 100 years another try. “Thank goodness for that family tree”-indeed! I have nothing against the palindrome :), but I just don’t like the character at all. Her entire behavior and the wrong choices she made throughout the rest of her life after meeting Vronsky, how she abandoned her son and her inner tragic weakness which led her to suicide makes me sick. Maybe it’s a very shallow judgement of me to make, but that is my true opinion. It stops me from even approaching it. But it is a gigantic classic worth reading nonetheless.

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    • Ste J

      01/03/2014 at 11:14

      You are the second blogger to really intrigue me with this book, i will have to dig my copy out now, I know I have one somewhere…I’m getting giddy for the classics again, now..this is a good day.

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      • Anna

        01/03/2014 at 11:27

        I like you, Set J. A long time now you have been on my mental list of amazing minds to explore. This IS a good day indeed. Today I’ve finally decided to explore and bombard your blog with my humble and enthusiastic attention. If you could see my Russian volume of Anna Karenina… it scares me. May be it’s time for me to confront it as well.

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        • Ste J

          01/03/2014 at 11:56

          It’s a pleasure to have you hop aboard the good blog Ste J! I am intrigued with the look of your book now…I think you should attack it with vigour, as I mean to when the review commitments I have calm down, not that I have a problem with people sending me free stuff, in fact I do encourage it!

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          • Anna

            01/03/2014 at 13:12

            Ste J, I’ve misspelled your name, sorry. You know what? I’m going to make a post about it, it has some interesting b&w illustrations. I’ve read a few pages. It starts off with a family fight, which subsequently leads to the Karenina-Vronsky encounter. It is official, Ste J. I’m reading Anna Karenina! Thanks to you. “when the review commitments I have calm down”-what do you mean? You mean people ask you to review books for them?

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            • Ste J

              01/03/2014 at 13:49

              I am most interested in reading your opinions about it. I’m glad you’ve restarted it, I feel inspired to read it as soon as now. Over the last four months I have been given seven books to review…well one is still on the way and one I am reading now. I do enjoy all the different styles and thoughts that I have never come across before.

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              • Anna

                01/03/2014 at 14:30

                Just so I understand correctly, for the past 4 months you’re reading other people’s recommendations so you can tell them what you think about the book? It might be very interesting to read Karenina about the same time and share our thoughts about it.

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                • Ste J

                  02/03/2014 at 14:29

                  No, people are sending me their own works which I am reviewing. It’s a great way to get new books and visitors as well. Anna Karenina is proving more elusive than I first thought, but I am sure i will find it soon.

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                  • shadowoperator

                    02/03/2014 at 14:37

                    Hi. I didn’t like “War and Peace” and I had some difficulty enjoying “Anna Karenina,” but of the two I did like the second best. If you’re interested in seeing what various people of some literary stature have to say about “Anna Karenina,” there’s an intense and excellent memoirist and teacher named Richard Gilbert at http://richardgilbert.me who has recently made some worthwhile remarks about the book. He teaches in Ohio, and has a lot to say about a number of interesting things, actually. He’s said things recently that convince me to re-read “Anna Karenina” to see what more I can get out of it. Hope this helps.

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                    • Ste J

                      02/03/2014 at 14:47

                      I will check him out, thanks for the link. I really enjoyed War and peace so am looking forward to AK, especially now that there is a discussion going on about it.

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                  • Anna

                    02/03/2014 at 17:18

                    Oh, now I get it. Now it makes more sense. So you give people feedback.. Wow. I think that with your intellectual skills you could make a business out of it 🙂
                    Like I said, I’ve started reading Karenina. For me it’s going nice and slow. Maybe I’ll finish it by the end of 2014…

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                    • Ste J

                      03/03/2014 at 16:04

                      I am trying to get into that side of paid reviews, although of course I want to keep the blog reviews free because it’s not really a job it’s just great!!! I thank you for your compliment, I do like to try and get deep into each book I read to bring as much as I can to the fore.

                      It is a hefty tome but I have faith in you!

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                    • Anna

                      03/03/2014 at 16:48

                      Thanks Ste J 🙂

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