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War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

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Author: Leo Tolstoy / Format: Hardback / Date of publication: 29 October 1992 / Subcategory: Classic Fiction / Publisher: Everyman / Title: War and Peace / ISBN 13: 9781857150964 / ISBN 10: 1857150964 / Alternative EAN: 9780140447934

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    8 Reviews
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      15.02.2011 01:32
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      A story of love, death, betrayal, friendship interwoven with historical military fact and theory.

      I am the book-a-week type reader. I can easily read an 800+ page book in a week, and truly get my teeth into the characters and events at the same time.

      War and Peace however, was different. You cannot rush this book, the genius of Tolsoy's story telling deserves relish. One must consume and savour every individual word to truly appreciate the incredible feat of this novel which spans several years and focuses on several protagonists. I therefore advise setting aside a month or two for this book, taking the novel a volume at a time (of which it has four). Only then can you get to know the characters and their stories.

      The realism employed by the author of this epic tale ensures that history and literary lovers alike will appreciate it's genius. Tolstoy, as the title suggests, takes the reader on a journey through the Napoleonic invasion of Russia, from the persepctive of the Russian gentry whilst at times questioning accepted historical theory; and intertwines this (a feat in itself) with extraordinary romance, love, loss and death.

      At the same time as exploring, in great depth, the military actions and manouveres of Napoleon and Kutuzov, Tolstoy embroils the life stories of three main protagonists Prince Andrei, who falls in love and is betrayed. Pierre Buzukov and his personal struggle with morality and humanity, and Natasha Rostov who's journey from girlhood to womanhood, we witness in sometime voyeuristic honesty. And still this is not all, the reader encounters many other characters and their struggles within this novel, some of them in great detail.

      Tolstoy also questions the hypocrisy of contemporary Russian culture, the divides between rich and poor, and the moral implications of sending men out to fight a seemingly impossible war, whilst their counterparts attend frivolous social gatherings. Despite this, the author maintains a truly admirable sense of patriotism througout the novel, that will make one feel truly moved and nostaligic for a better, more simplistic era.

      It would take hours to summarise the plot of War and Peace, so suffice to say that this book is a feat of literary genius, which one must experience to believe. This novel truly sets the standard!

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        24.01.2011 18:48
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        A masterpiece

        This book is nothing short of incredible. Within its pages the whole range of human emotions, sensibilities and fallibilities are examined, and Tolstoy's insights into the human character demonstrates a writer of great insight, curiosity and empathy. When I picked up this book for the first time, and saw its many pages with its tiny font, I predicted that this would be one of those classics that everyone says to read but ultimately becomes a test of willpower to get to the end. I am happy to say however that the pages instead turn easily, and this is not only due to the quality of Tolstoy's writing, but also because Tolstoy makes us care about the plight of the characters, because we realise as a reader that we share the same strengths, and the same weaknesses, as the protagonists. This is a book that everyone should read and please, please don't be put off by its sheer size - once you've read the first page, you'll never look back!

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          09.03.2009 10:54
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          easy to read and interesting but very long

          I decided a year go that I was going to start reading all the great masterpieces of literature. It seemed to me that it would be a shame to move from this world to the next without ever having read the classic books. This is how I came to buy and read War and Peace.

          The plot covers Russia during the Napoleonic wars. At its center are three characters: Pieer Bezuhov, Prince Andrei and Natasha Rostov. Tolstoy follows the lives and changing fortunes of these characters and their families. Throughout the novel, scenes of everyday domestic life are juxtaposed with scenes of battle.

          The first thing I noticed was the number of pages. It's more that 1400 pages of teeny tiny text. I did wonder whether it was originally three books, but no, its just one book. Certainly by todays standard it is way too long. Perhaps Tolstoy was having some fun making it such a treadmill of a book.

          Anyhow the length of the novel means that Tolstoy frequently indulges in two innovations. The first is to describe things in luxurious detail. At first such detail is truly a delight but after a while it invokes a strong desire to start skim reading or even skip a few pages. Thoughts of 'alright I get the point' frequently came into my head.

          A second innovation is that Tolstoy often breaks into very long narratives and historical essays. These again induce the temptation to skip ahead a few pages until it gets interesting again.

          I was surprised to find that the novel was very easy to read. I had pre-conceived ideas that Tolstoy would be very complex, appreciated only by literary scholars who revel in such things as form and fancy grammatical constructions. But this was not the case at all and that leads me to the single biggest gripe I have with Tolsty's War and Peace. This is that I was very much aware that I was reading a very anglicised, english translation of Tolstoy. Sometimes it felt that I was not reading Tolstoy at all but rather an interpretation of Tolstoy. For example, these paraphrases taken from the book could easily have been written by a scriptwriter for EastEnders:
          'If only them there reserves 'ad come up right, lads, there wouldn't 'ave been a smell of him left, for I can tell you ...'

          There have been a number of translations, most notably by Constance Garnett, Rosemary Edmonds, Louise and Aylmer Maude (whose version was approved by Tolstoy himself) and most recently by Anthony Briggs. I'm sure there are debates about the worthiness and genuiness of translations, but that is not something that I am aware of being ignorant of literature as an art form.

          After having made it to the end of the novel (took me 6 months!) I would recommend to people new to Tolstoy to first of al read tolstoy's novel Ann Karenina. It is very similar to war and peace but much shorter in length. By reading Anna Keranini irst you will gain an understanding of what Tolstoy novels are like and then if you give up rea1ding war and peace, well you wont really be missing anything frankly.

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          06.09.2004 17:29
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          War and Peace deservedly ranks as one of the greatest novels of its time and some may say come in the top 100 books ever, and personally I agree. I picked this book up to travel round Europe with as it looked like it may take some time and so last my voracious appetite for reading, but once I started it on the flight out I managed to get through it in a week as every bit of free time I had I simply had no choice but to pick it up and find out what happened next. For those of you that don?t know the novel is set over the period of time spanning Napoleons? invasion of Russia and Tolstoy intermingles the political intrigue, military events and personal observations of real life characters at the time with a wonderful story centred around maybe three main characters and 4 or 5 sub characters and their personal growth and changes over this time. The three main characters are all wonderfully written and grow with time in a natural and enchanting way so that eventually you begin to grow with them. And that perhaps is the real power of Tolstoy writing, that it?s a vehicle to convey his philosophical views on life and family but also very much a history book where he tries to stamp upon you his view upon the events of the war and who was to be praised and whom should have been vilified. Sadly I found much of the historical writing to get in the way of the story but sadly was unable to skip it as some times important events in the lives of the characters take place within those situations. There is one thing I found slightly annoying about Tolstoy and his writing technique and this was his need to not just use metaphors as a quick way to convey and idea but he seems to feel the need to spend about 3 pages outlining every possible aspect of the metaphor and squeezing that last drop of symbolism from it. And to be honest it annoyed the hell out of me. &#
          84;hat aside though the story is wonderfully written, maintains changes of pace so that a quite family lull is followed by and intense emotional situation, and finally is an absolutely fantastic love story. Oh and for the record Pierre is SO the man!

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            14.02.2001 17:31
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            This massive chronicle, to which Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) devoted five whole years shortly after his marriage, portrays Russian family life during and after the Napoleonic war. I would say thats this is one on Tolstoy's masterpieces and one of the greatest novels. War and Peace is a portrait of the nineteenth-century Russian life. fluctuating between times of turbulence and lavish bouts of opulence. I remembering reading this great novel in my history lessons and could not put the book down then as i was swept away by Tolstoy's evocative, virbant prose. I remember the novel opens ata sumptuous party, where a group of aristrocats are discussing the notion of war, which felt that this was an early indication of troubles ahead. At this point in the book onlt in the first chapter they ta;lk about Napoleon's invasion of Russia, the story shows you how Napoleon's invasion rocks the Russian Nation. From this point on i couldn't put this classic novel down it made me feel as i was there in the room with the aristrocats discussing these issues. As this story was written after Leo Tolstory's marriage it made me feel that he was searching for something or someone. War and Peace is a magnificant acheviement and personal in its braod depiction of human insight and experience. If you have never read this book you will fall in love with the story, the book is around 1352 pages, a very long book, bbut if you like classic books this certainly the one to read. This is a true epic, it captures everything a novel could capture.

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              08.12.2000 18:40
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              'War and Peace' is one of the greatest works of historical fiction ever written. It is hard to know which is the more impressive, the size and scale of the story or that of the book itself. I bought a paperback copy of this book for £1 from the classics section of WHsmiths a number of years ago and it was my only travelling companion as I spent a summer inter-railing around Europe. Reading the book is a journey in itself. What really stands War and Peace out is the way in which Tolstoy develops the protagonists over time. Tolstoy manages to convey the whole mindset of his lead characters as they change and develop overtime until. Your thinking grows along with theirs. Tolstoy also uses the book as a vehicle for his own philosophies, in particular his views on determinism in the course of human history. When you have read the book avoid at all costs the second epilogue as this contains only Tolstoys arguments on, in the main, determinism, and would be more at home in a history theory book. My copy of War and Peace represents the best £1 that I have ever spent and I feel guilty to have paid so little for something that has come to mean so much to me.

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                28.10.2000 05:50
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                I am not a great reader of classic books, but I make it my aim to read a few of the best admired books in my lifetime, just to see what all the fuss has been about. (I hate to think I am missing out on something good!) Well, War and Peace was a challenge, and it took me years to muster up the courage to tackle it. I saw Anna Karenina on screen, so was familiar with that story. This stimulated my interest in reading the book, just to see if I liked Tolstoy's style of writing (plus it is around half the size of W&P, so less intimidating). After reading and loving that book, I waited until my summer break from university before buying W&P. A year later, I finally finished it! I may be a fairly leisurely reader, but with W&P, I found I had to keep taking breaks, to "regroup". After all, reading W&P is a huge undertaking! I found the family aspects to the stories captivating, but the military aspects were less enjoying, apart from the retreat of Napolean's forces, when the Russian military was shambolic. Tolstoy's musings on the nature of free will, which extended into the second epilogue, were also hard work, but despite this, I am glad to have made the effort to read War and Peace. The family stories are what remain with me - I think this book has something for most people, but I think that starting with Anna Karenina was a good idea, just to get a feeling for the period. Anna Karenina was for me an easier read.

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                02.08.2000 15:56
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                Leo Tolstoy's famous novel is infamous for its length. Over one and a half thousand pages, its size seems overwhelming, Yet such is his talent as a storyteller, the quality of his characters and the drama of the events that every page is justified. He tells the story of not just a few characters, but an entire country, Russia at the time of the Napoleonic wars. Whole families are characterised in detail, and the reader follows their stories through the epic events. The story crosses Europe, from the Imperial courts of Tsar Alexander and Emperor Napoleon to homes, streets and villages. During the epic events of battles or the capture of cities, Tolstoy looks through the eyes of familiar characters, each with their own personalities and dreams. It is this rich tapestry of life that is the heart of the novel, as they grow and experience the massive events, changing their understanding of the world. Perhaps the most difficult to read are Tolstoy's own theories about the nature of history. He spends many chapters arguing the inevitability, and the ineffectiveness of people like Napoleon who think themselves in control of events. But this concept of a grand scheme fits the tremendous canvas of the book, the immense stage on which every one is a bit player. His genius is to combine the fate of nations with human stories, characters like Pierre, Natasha, Rostov, Prince Andrew and many more who we follow with sympathy. A masterpiece that rewards the time it takes to read.

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