Mike's Reviews > War and Peace

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
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's review
Jul 26, 08

Recommended to Mike by: AARP magazine
Recommended for: Anyone
Read in July, 2008

Yep, the old man read War and Peace. Whew! Actually, he thought it was a pretty fair book. The cover notes say Tolstoy is the greatest novelist and WaP is the greatest novel, but the old man is not qualified to join in that critique. Especially when he likes Louis L’Amour so much. But anyway, the book is filled with politics, psychology, military strategy, discourses on what is a great man, love, relationships, competition, philosophy of history.

The old man loved the parts about old General Kutozov, who could see what was happening to Napoleon’s army when they arrived in Moscow; he waited and saved the Russian army while Napoleon’s army collapsed of its own doing; then he chased them out of Russia and destroyed them. Moreover, he was under incredible pressure to attack, but the lesser generals had to obey and the Tsar could do nothing because Kutozov was so loved by the people.

It was an easy book to read – very short chapters, no stream of consciousness. The many descriptions of the landscapes were truly works of art. At least 100 characters were fully and richly developed. There were so many characters, the old man had to write them down and diagram the relationships. There were about 20 main characters. Most other characters appeared only once but they were so vivid the old man remembers them all. Several characters appeared sporadically throughout.

Tolstoy skewers the field of history, pretty much saying they miss the point. He says history is really about the movements of humans and the necessities causing those movements – as opposed to the study of “great” men (quote marks by Tolstoy.) Tolstoy thinks Napoleon is highly overrated and was nothing more than pure evil. The old man picked up The Lessons of History by the Durants to check Tolstoy’s philosophy, and sure enough, it looks like modern historians have taken Tolstoy’s path.

The last part of the book is a lengthy discussion and development of the philosophy of free will. This was very interesting and at the end Tolstoy tied it all in with his ideas about history. The old man thinks Tolstoy’s intellect is equal to or greater than Descartes, Hume, Kant or Sartre. Plus, he can write a good novel and they cannot.

The old man will always fondly remember the soldiers’ general – General Kutozov.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Liz (new) - rated it 4 stars

Liz i'm confused - your review is so good but you gave it only one star - why?


Mike Just a joke, to show how arrogant I am.


message 3: by Liz (new) - rated it 4 stars

Liz ok then.... no comment i guess


Lisa I love this novel. You make some excellent points. I read it several years ago and was not, at that time, into war or military books. Currently, I am reading books on World War II, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as books on Generals. I will have to reread this again from more of a military perspective.

I read another review by someone who really disliked this novel, disrespected Tolstoy's theories, and was highly critical of the character development. I loved reading about Andre and Pierre and all of the complex emotions brought to their civilian and military roles. I fell in love with Andre, both as a military leader and humanitarian. I find Pierre annoying and yet, even though I'm a woman, I relate to him most closely. Life is confusing and failure is not an option, it's the only option. But, Pierre, despite all of his inadequacy and incompetency, grows up and comes to understand his purpose in life.


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