Nathan Eilers's Reviews > War and Peace

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
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Feb 18, 09

bookshelves: fiction, translation
Read in February, 2009

Yep, I read the whole thing! I was in this book from Nov 10, 2008-Feb 18, 2009. Obviously, I cannot address everything in this book, but I have to try.

War and Peace is renowned as the greatest novel for good reason; I was most impressed with the novel's scope and characterization. This novel is immense, and I'm not talking about pagination only. Tolstoy takes on so many disparate topics and somehow manages to fuse them into a cohesive book. Amazing. As for the people who live in these pages, they are myriad and deep. Sure, there are a few flat characters, but so many characters are engaging because they are in flux constantly. You like and dislike the main characters as they change, but they do not bore.

W&P is an interesting marriage between a more traditional novel (plot, characters, etc.) and historical commentary. Tolstoy goes out of his way several times to make his point of view known regarding the the errors most historians make. He's definitely a determinist and makes the case that free will is an illusion. Sometimes these asides are interesting and sometimes they're not. I could have done with fewer of them.

I don't see how I could give this book fewer than five stars. I've never read its equal in terms of authorial power of vision. Tolstoy somehow makes this novel incredibly broad and deep. Did I enjoy every page? No, but I certainly liked most of them.

Five stars again to this version of W&P! All long novels should look to this as an example. Anthony Figgs' translation is excellent and very readable; I am impressed. The extra material is superb: character list, notes, maps, chapter summaries--why don't more books have these? Brilliantly put together. If you want to read W&P, get this edition.

What didn't I like? The epilogue was too long and redundant.
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Reading Progress

11/09/2008 page 10
0.7% "Had to start over w/ unabriged version."
11/22/2008 page 255
17.91% "Getting ready for the battle at Austerlitz. I'm excited!"
11/27/2008 page 300
21.07% "Just into Volume II."
12/04/2008 page 388
27.25% "My favorite character died & Pierre's looking into the Freemasons."
12/22/2008 page 552
38.76% "Pierre and Andrey maintain an inversely corresponding philosophical outlook that continually flip-flops. I'm looking forward to more war."
01/13/2009 page 708
49.72% "Into Volume III, and here comes Napoleon's advance into Russia. Last section on Anatole and Natasha was feelingly done and compelling."
01/26/2009 page 902
63.34% "Battle of Borodino. It's been fast reading recently, whenever I actually read." 2 comments
01/29/2009 page 1014
71.21% "Napoleon's in Moscow, and a fire just started..."
02/05/2009 page 1186
83.29% "French are retreating. Lots of interesting sideplots."
02/12/2009 page 1251
87.85% "Post-war now. Pierre is much more likable now. Almost to the epilogue, which is almost 100 pp. Fitting."
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