Katie's Reviews > War and Peace

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
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's review
Mar 21, 2008

it was amazing
Read in February, 2007

The edition I read, 1300 pages, is Oxford “World’s Classics.” Now I know why… War and Peace has to be one of the most amazing books I have read. Where to begin. I guess the thing I enjoyed the most about it, and what impressed me the most, was Tolstoy’s depth of insight and perception of human nature, spanning social classes, men, women, and children. By the end you feel that you know the characters so well that you could recognize them in a crowd on the street. And there isn’t just one or two main characters that this applies to. There are whole families of main characters, but I didn’t feel challenged in keeping track of them. They are so believable, you just get to know them in spite of yourself. They start out as social acquaintences among the wealthy Russian gentry, and you follow them through battles, illnesses, romances, military hospitals, war captivity, death, debt, and life-changing perspective shifts. You have the experience of the War of 1812 right along with them, with things gradually getting worse and more intense, looking back and thinking, I never thought things would come to this. But here we are. I am still me, but I have grown and changed, and these others - I can remember a time before I met them but I know them so well now that I can’t remember how it felt to not know them.
This is my criteria for an excellent, compelling book: Through the telling of a story, the author imparts to the reader the same feelings and experiences that the characters are having. By reading the book you live out in a partial, but convincing and moving way, the same thoughts, emotions, and discoveries that the story describes. This is a subtle, hard-to-pin down quality. Something in the pacing, the way and timing in which information is revealed or concealed… Obviously it comes with the author’s skill in describing people and events. Choice of words, to evoke the right imagery that really resonates with the reader. That’s the magic of good writing - you don’t have to work to imagine. The visuals spring unbidden to your mind, as if they couldn’t be any other way. A few brief external words later, you have envisioned internal truths.

Many of the descriptions and characters resonated with me in an “ah, yes. This I know. True, that.” kind of a way. But other things, like the descriptions of the characters’ experiences in battle, taught me a lot of new things about what it must be like to be a man, a soldier, a soldier in combat. These kinds of things are timeless, I think. A socialite in the early 1800’s, a young army officer in the early 1800’s - we are not so different in these modern days. Human nature still rings true, when it is truly captured in words, and so masterfully as Leo Tolstoy has done in War and Peace.

I would recommend it to anyone.


One tiny note: You have to be patient with Tolstoy. He kind of goes off on his ideas about the philosophy of history, especially in the later portion of the book. I found it interesting, but maybe repeated a few too many times…
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12/30/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Irene I really agree with you. I like "War and Peace" much, because it captured so much that you forgive the sense of reality.

Arne You nailed it. What you described perfectly matches my experience with this novel.

Seattle Al Ditto. What Tolstoy excels at is creating three-dimensional characters in believable difficult situations.

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