The reason for my three and a half week absence from blogging can be attributed to the fact I’ve been immersing myself in Leo Tolstoy’s epic ‘War and Peace’. Upon finishing this novel, the first thing I have done is opened up my blog to discuss my thoughts and feelings as there are so many regarding this wonderful book. Some read ‘War and Peace’ just to say they’ve read it in its imposing entirety, some people read it to feel intellectual and some read it with the intention of giving up half way through and branding it ‘long-winded and boring’. Personally, I tackled the book for two reasons- my love of historical fiction and my need to see if this novel precedes its reputation. I believe it is a fantastic, if draining novel, that lives up to one of its reputations but not the other. The book IS fantastic, but it certainly isn’t boring! I can honestly say that the only part of this entire journey I disliked was ‘Epilogue: Part II’ due to the fact Tolstoy appears to have gone off on a fifty to sixty page tangent at this stage. To be fair, I’m sure he can be forgiven when one considers he’d spent five long years working on a 1215 page novel by this point!
In terms of characters there are so many that I cannot possibly discuss all of them! Instead, I have chosen to focus in on the protagonists, starting with Prince Andrei. I have to say I found the Prince to be a hard character to like, although I’m sure it was Tolstoy’s intention for him to be overly enthusiastically and thus slightly cocky in his earlier years. Nevertheless, I did feel sorry for him when he appeared to realise the error of his ways and came to an unpleasant end. I also preferred him over Anatole, his love rival, simply because he was the least irritating of the two characters. Once again, it is obvious that Tolstoy wishes his audience to take Andrei’s side over that of Anatole. These two characters clash over Natasha Rostov, a Russian countess whom I found to be somewhat bland. The only time I found myself overly engrossed in her life was the one occasion she acted somewhat drastically. I found her brother much more fascinating and was actually quite amused by his drunken antics early in the novel. Then there was Helene Bezukhov, a bitchy woman with a penchant for bigamy who definitely deserved her demise! Her husband Pierre, on the other hand, was undoubtedly my favourite character of the entire novel. He has fast become one of my favourite literary characters of all time. Observing him throughout the book, one felt as though he actually grew as a person. His introverted character and frequent daydreaming reminded me of myself, as did his attitude that seemingly consisted of a mindset that stated ‘It’ll get done…eventually’. One of the things I loved the most about the book as a whole, and thus Pierre, was its modern mind-set. For a book written in a time when church was a compulsory part of daily life, ‘War and Peace’ is not afraid to question the concept of religion. Pierre as a character voices concerns about the institution and is critical of some of its methods of manipulation on Russian citizens. Furthermore, the concept of bigamy is condemned and it is even hinted that some women are evolving into feminists!
With regards to language, the prose displayed in this novel is simply stunning. Tolstoy clearly had a way with words; something that is displayed upon every single page of this book. There are no mistakes at all and every word reads as though it was placed in the sentence in which it resides for a reason. Credit should also be awarded to those who translated the book, as they have deciphered every line of French and have translated the Russian word for word. Looking back, I am incredibly glad I chose the trustworthy vintage publication of this novel that I did!
In terms of the story the novel tells in a continuous sense it is important to remember that in essence ‘War and Peace’ simply recounts the Napoleonic wars and talks a bit about Russian Society; however in reality it tells the intertwining stories of many characters and how war tarnishes their lives over a seven year period. The wars themselves were described beautifully, with every movement of the French and Russian armies being accounted for. Despite the subject of war movements making for heavy and ‘un-girly’ reading I found myself enthralled. A large part of the book seems to be dedicated to the Russian General Kutuzov and Napoleon attempting to outwit themselves during battle, which was interesting due to the undeniable intelligence of both generals. On a more tender side, the death of one character in particular was described absolutely beautiful. It was undeniably the best way I have seen an author tackle the subject of a character’s eventual passing. Similarly, the friendships in this book that persevered through war and persecution were heartwarming and resilient. The insight into 1800’s Russian society was enthralling from a sociological point of view as it provided a real in sight into a nation I previously knew almost nothing about. It was fascinating to see which areas of this society Tolstoy approved of, as he occasionally writes in a biased manner when discussing characters and places he does or does not like. I can truly say that the only part of this book I disliked was the second part of the epilogue, as it felt as though Tolstoy lost all sense and simply rambled about irrelevant subjects that did not interest or concern me. At times ‘War and Peace’ is like having a conversation with an extremely intelligent person- you think you’re keeping up without being 100% sure that you are in actual fact keeping up!
In some personal news, I have recently started a ‘Bookstagram’ account where I will discuss all things book-related via Instagram. Feel free to follow me @EmReads99! Much appreciated 🙂