Wisdom teeth woes aside, something historical happened this week. I finished War and Peace.
That’s right. I have completed my lengthy and often tedious battle with Tolstoy’s thousand page novel. To say I’m proud of myself would be an understatement.
I adored the BBC adaptation and that’s what had prompted me to pick up the book, but you can read all about my adoration for the television version here on Talk Nerdy With Us.
When it comes to Tolstoy’s book, I didn’t love it or loathe it. My inability to form a concrete opinion of the book is why I had a hard time deciding if I was going to write-up about it at all. But after much debate, I decided that as finishing it was such a personal reading milestone to me it would be good to share my thoughts on it even if I feel a little shameful I can’t give it five stars.
Widely considered the greatest novel ever written in any language, War and Peace has as its backdrop Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and at its heart three of the most memorable characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, a quixotic young man in search of spiritual joy; Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, a cynical intellectual transformed by the suffering of war; and the bewitching and impulsive Natasha Rostov, daughter of a count. As they seek fulfillment, fall in love, make mistakes, and become scarred by battle in different ways, these characters and their stories interweave with those of a huge cast, from aristocrats to peasants, from soldiers to Napoleon himself.
“Nothing is so necessary for a young man as the company of intelligent woman.”
War and Peace was what it was. I consider it a personal achievement just to have completed it. I really did have to wade through to find the parts that interested me and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t skim over things. It’s something we’re all guilty of when reading and when it comes to something like War and Peace then a free pass for skipping past the boring bits is allowed.
I’m sure what I class as ‘the boring bits’ of War and Peace are what some would say are the most exciting parts. It’s such a large and packed novel with something to offer all different types of readers. Personally, the battle scenes weren’t for me. Going in, I knew from the title that war would be a very central theme in the novel so I wasn’t surprised to be greeted by so many scenes on the battlefield. Yet, I just got tired of the endless descriptions that seemed to drag on page after page. It was hard to find all the crucial key details in the war scenes because there was sometimes a mix of too much going on and then not enough going on to sustain my interest.
What really grasped my attention in the book was the characters. I adored the insight into Russian aristocratic society from Anna Pavlovna’s parties to the adorkable Pierre. Perhaps it was easier to connect with the characters because I was picturing them as their actors from the show, but I did adore reading about their ventures.
Do I feel bad that I couldn’t give War and Peace five stars because I admittedly dozed off occasionally when reading it? Yes, I do. But there are endless glowing reviews regarding Tolstoy’s masterpiece of a novel elsewhere if you’re looking for someone who loved it to the moon and back.
As one reader on GoodReads said of finishing the book, “Conquering this Everest was The Test of whether you were a Man/Reader.” I’m ridiculously pleased that I’ve conquered War and Peace. I suppose whether I liked it or hated it doesn’t matter. It’d be like slating J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter series. I cannot deny that Tolstoy is a brilliant writer on a whole, there are certain parts of War and Peace that will leave you captivated and then there will be less brilliant bits that’ll make you switch off. That doesn’t take away from the reputation this classic has and the fact is that everyone should read it and form their own thoughts on it because it’s such a complex book.
I know it’s irrelevant to the book in a way, but the BBC did a fantastic job bringing it to life. The story was tweaked in a few places as was it condensed to fit into six hour long episodes. The atmosphere and general gist of Tolstoy’s work is present throughout. If you’re in doubt whether not War and Peace is something you should pick up, I’d suggest watching a bit of the adaptation. Not only will you be acquainted with a basic idea of the plot, but you’ll be able to clearly distinguish who’s who as there are so many characters in War and Peace.
It’s filled with war, love, eventual peace and Tolstoy’s own philosophical ideas, but I may just stick to re-watching television adaptation.