Monday, 21 January 2013

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Paperback, 1024 pages
Published 1993 by Wordsworth Editions (first published 1865)
ISBN 1853260622 (ISBN13: 9781853260629)

"This title is translated by Louise & Aylmer Maude. With an Introduction by Henry and Olga Claridge, University of Kent at Canterbury, "War and Peace" is a vast epic centred on Napoleon's war with Russia. While it expresses Tolstoy's view that history is an inexorable process which man cannot influence, he peoples his great novel with a cast of over five hundred characters. Three of these, the artless and delightful Natasha Rostov, the world-weary Prince Andrew Bolkonsky and the idealistic Pierre Bezukhov illustrate Tolstoy's philosophy in this novel of unquestioned mastery. This translation is one which received Tolstoy's approval."

Well frankly, I did question the mastery of this one, I really had to force myself to finish it. It had moments of being ok, when I would think aha we're getting somewhere, but then it would drift back into mindnumbing information. As Tolstoy, himself said, this really isn't a novel, it is an 'it', of astoundingly frustrating proportions - my words, not his. Most of the time I wanted to burn it and I imagined various violent deaths for Tolstoy to prevent him from writing it, but sadly he has long been deceased. Similarly, I wanted to smack most of his characters round the head, the men for being stupid and the women for being vapid (haha that rhymes) and genuinely, I am not normally a violent person at all.

If you do decide to read it, don't bother with the second epilogue unless you want to read more of Tolstoy's ideas about history and causality in a seemingly never-ending waffle of questions and what-ifs.

Saying all this, I am proud to say that I have read it, and even more so to say that I finished it! I will give this 3 out of 10. The only reason it gets more than one is that Tolstoy was clearly very clever, so possibly if you enjoy reading a myriad of theoretical ideas about war then you might enjoy it. Also, as a history graduate I did find it interesting to learn a little more about the Russian war, defending against French invasion, the way it was written just did not appeal to me at all. It probably didn't help that I read this just after I finished my degree, I probably should have read it when I had recovered. Nevertheless, I'm never reading it again!

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