Review – War & Peace
Firstly I would like to sincerely apologise for not having published in over a week *slaps wrist*
As you know (and as the title suggests…) I have been taking on this epic of a read and admittedly it was a risk. My initial challenge this year to read 20 books has been increased to 60 and as I was already dancing the fine line as to whether I’ll succeed or not, this has probably put me a little behind.
Anyhow, that is a concern for another day.
I have a lot of friends who are avid readers and having checked Goodreads, absolutely none of them have neither touched this book nor seem to even intend to, which frankly shocks me! I imagine that a lot of people are put off by the length of the book and I am not going to lie to you, it is long. I was pleasantly surprised however that the tone of the book and the writing style was very approachable. I didn’t expect this to be honest; bear in mind this novel was first published in Russian in 1869 and the version I was reading was translated and published in the 1920’s. You wouldn’t know – I had to look that up!
I was dubious as to whether I would see this through; I love historical fiction and I loved the TV adaptation the BBC aired last year here in the UK (I subsequently bought the DVD). I actually ended up referring to that in the beginning to to work out which character was who! I definitely couldn’t have gotten through it without that bit of background knowledge. I generally like to read the book first before I watch any TV/film adaptations, but I’m glad I broke the rules on this one.
It is notable that this text isn’t purely a narrative. Particularly towards the end of the book there is a lot of philosophical discussion about the historical recording of the war, how it’s movements were influenced and the impact one general or another had compared to the mass of movement and the will of the troops etc. The narrative is also written in an (almost) historically correct way as well (so we are told by Andrew Kaufmann – I haven’t checked), so if you are interested in learning about the movements of the war, then perhaps this is for you. Needless to say, if you are not interested in the historical element of the text, then I wouldn’t recommend this to you.
I’ll be perfectly honest and say whilst I did for the most part enjoy the book, there is an awful lot of information in there – perhaps too much for my liking. In the end I had to not let myself get bogged down by dates and times (there are references to old and new style dates?!). From about Book 13 I was just willing it to end. There are so many chapters about the French retreat and maneuvers by the Russians to cut off instead of routing the French (there are repeated arguments by Tolstoy that the french were doing this themselves so why waste troops engaging them – but hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing right?!).
Needless to say, I got a little bored by this point, but having come so far, I wasn’t giving up. I finally finished the book at 9:30pm last night, so decided to wind down by spending the next three hours watching the Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.
… I think that says a lot about me.
Anyhow, back to War & Peace. I think every reader should make their own mind up as to whether this kind of text is for you. I didn’t think it was for me, but I’m glad I took the plunge. I can’t say I enjoyed 100% of it; it was hard work, but knowing I took on the beast and beat it is a reward in itself. It was an experience that has broadened my scope of knowledge and I can happily say that in two weeks I completed this book – that’s pretty good going if you ask me!
I’m going to be spending the next couple of weeks reading some lighter material to recover! My next book is Terry Prachett’s “Witches Abroad”, so hopefully I can start getting the regular reviews back on track.
Has anybody else taken on War & Peace? If so, what are your thoughts?