Have you ever had a book that you meant to read but always put off? For me, that book was War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Now, not too long ago I wrote about George R.R. Martin’s 5th book in the Song of Ice and Fire series entitled A Dance with Dragons and I noted that as an epic read. Well, if that book was epic, then this book was grand by Homeric proportion. Being a glutton for punishment, I decided to read this book shortly after completing Dance and I’ll admit, it’s taken me some time to peruse.
Now I know many of you are probably thinking, why in the world are you reading War and Peace? Wasn’t that book written ages ago? Didn’t they make a movie about it back in the fifties? Weren’t you forced to read it in high school? The answers to all of those questions are yes, yes, and does cliff notes count? As far as why I read this book I have a few reasons. One, Tolstoy was one of my father’s favorite authors, so I had to do him the honor of completing at least one of his novels. Two, this was a book on my bucket list to complete. Let me explain.
I was not always an avid reader. As a matter of fact, when I was younger, many moons ago, I hated reading with a passion. I couldn’t find a bigger waste of time than sitting down indoors and reading a book. I was an outside kind of kid. And if I had to be indoors, why read, there was always television. I’ll never forget when HBO first came out (yes, I remember), I thought I heard the angels sing. Who needed books? When I first learned about War and Peace I had to go no further than the last page. Oh, over 1,000 pages – book closed, case closed, this was not for me.
Funny thing happened over the years … I grew up. I no longer found sitcoms as entertaining as they used to be and let’s face it, movies are best left to watch in the theaters, so in my early twenties I was introduced to the enjoyment of reading. Now that I’m long past my twenties, I consider myself an avid reader. I can’t explain why, but I suddenly had this desire to finally tackle this book and I’m glad I did. Thanks dad for the recommendation.
I’ll be honest with you; this was not an easy book to read (I’ll be frank, I’m still not finished, but I’m almost done). The first one hundred pages or so I found extremely confusing. There were several characters introduced and I had a hard time following who was who, and why they were important. I couldn’t figure out who exactly was the main protagonist, or the antagonist for that matter. There were gatherings and gossip a plenty about Napoleon and the war that I soon discovered, this wasn’t a story so much about a specific protagonist/antagonist as it was a collection of lives and how they were impacted by the war.
As mentioned, there were so many different stories intertwined into one monumental novel that at first it was daunting to follow. Eventually Tolstoy does narrow down his focus and makes it easier to follow the lives of some specific individuals ranging from Prince Andrew Bolkonsky, a true soldier at heart, to Pierre Bezukhov the illegitimate son of a wealthy count who inherits a fortune, or Natasha Rostov a young romantic full of life. Each one suffers their own trials and tribulations, so it’s easy to associate with their tale. That aside, most of the narrative surrounding these characters focuses on their daily life and the impact Napoleon had on them, and Russia throughout the years.
Bottom line, for anyone who has this book on his, or her bucket list of books to read, you better get to it. If you survive the descriptive first one hundred pages, you will find yourself completely drawn into Tolstoy’s world. The stories grow more complex as you continue through the various stages, but you’ll find so does your enjoyment in getting to know these colorful characters. If you’re not a marathon reader then this book is not for you. Hey, not everyone is ready to tackle a book of this nature. On the other hand, if you find you have the ambition, and the time, I think you will be happy you opened the book.