Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Final Thoughts on War and Peace.

Before I say anything else you should know that I finished this one way back in February. In fact, I finished it for the readalong I was hosting.

And because I am such a failure at everything these days, I never posted my final thoughts on the novel. I simply can't let another week go by without saying SOMETHING about one of the scariest books I have ever attempted.


Because after finishing I wasn't so sure what I was scared of. Of course there are lots of complicated names and characters, but I didn't find it any more challenging than the other Russian novels I have already tackled (Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, and Fathers and Sons). I just read it in bits and chunks and in two months, one of the scariest books on my list was reduced to a "read" status on Goodreads.

There was also the matter of size. I commend myself for being able to read anywhere, but I struggled to hold this one up while lying in bed and was reduced to reading it at the table so it could flop open. Less comfortable, but I managed.

Beyond all of that silliness, let's talk about the story.

One of the things I have come to love in these big Russian masterpieces is the depth and strength of the story. By having so many characters and plotlines, these authors were able to create truly wonderful and inspiring depictions of humanity in Russia. I am in awe. I loved it. I love the conflict between East and West, and the depth Tolstoy gave to these issues. I also admire him for crafting Napoleon as a character and making him believable.

Most of all, I loved that he told the story he felt he was supposed to tell. He combined the images and pain of a battlefield to the society and life of numerous Russians. When I finished (not counting the second epilogue-more on that in a minute), I immediately wanted to pick it up and start it over again.

Which I have. You might think I am crazy, but a big part of me wanted to savor Tolstoy's work a little slower, so I am rereading it. I want to read it at a much slower pace so I can take it all in. I'm already about 200 pages in and I am pulling more from it this time around. I think Tolstoy is meant to be read a little slower, so I am enjoying it.

The only thing I won't be reading again is the second epilogue. There, Tolstoy seemed to rant a little on his philosophies of war and it just dragged on...and on...and on. I just don't think I can handle that again. I will probably be jumping in on Jillian's discussions as she is hosting a year-long readalong of the book. I just need to catch back up. :)

So for those of you who have been holding back, you don't need to be scared. At first the names are intimidating, but the chapters are short and the story is engaging. It captured my attention from the beginning and spurred me to pick it back up for an immediate reread.

For those of you who have read this, what did you think? Were you intimidated? Surprised? Did you love it, hate it? Let me know!

And for those of you who haven't read it, why haven't you picked it up yet? ;)


  1. I read Anna Karenina and it took me so long because it just felt overwhelming to me! BUT, it was so awesome that I could always remember what was going on, and realise how much I really did like it- I think I need to return to it in a year or two, and I'll appreciate it even more!

    Why haven't I picked up War and Peace yet? Um... I just finished Anna Karenina, what more do you want from me?! Hehehe

  2. All great writing is "meant to be read a little slower"!

  3. Yay! I thought I had somehow missed this post at the end of the read-along. I was in the same boat as you. I was intimidated, but by the end I wasn't sure why. It was epic, so many characters and years are covered, but it's easy once you know who is who.

    I can't believe you're re-reading it. I know you'll get so much more from it, but wow! I agree about the 2nd epilogue, too much. I was struck by the sheer amount of Tolstoy's personal philosophy that he worked into the book. He really used it as a platform in some ways.

    In the end what I really loved was the story and the growth of the characters. Watching Pierre and Natasha mature and become complex individuals made the whole book wonderful.

  4. Great review on a classic. I'm glad you enjoyed the book, it's reviews like this which make me want to tackle it.

  5. What did you think of Natasha in the first epilogue? She was such a strong character throughout the book and I was disappointed with the way Tolstoy chose to depict her in the first epilogue.

  6. I read this in college years ago and I've completely forgotten what happens. I know there's a war. . . and some peace. . . and they all speak French. But that's it. I guess it's time to reread it! I do remember liking it though, except for the last 50-page epilogue which I never did finish (luckily, it wasn't on the exam).

  7. Congratulations! It's encouraging to know that you enjoyed the story since I plan on reading it...someday. :)

  8. I completely agree with you that some stories just need to be read slowly and savored. I feel that way about East of Eden.

  9. I think I'd like to attempt this someday, slowly and a little bit at a time. It's something I'll approach after school though. I might try Gone With the Wind again soon. I really was enjoying it but the size made me feel like I would never reach the end. I don't know why I felt that way since I finished The Passage so quickly.

  10. yes, I'm with you on that second epilogue. I didn't love this book but I didn't hate it. I think the intimidation factor for me was I had two months to read it for a book club (I was leading the discussion!!) so anyway, I second your comments here. It's a sweeping book and it's well worth reading. It's not scary, just long.