Wendy's Reviews > War and Peace

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
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did not like it
bookshelves: classics, fiction

Having finally finished this piece of crap, I have several things to say:


2) I hope Tolstoy was as miserable upon publication of this as I was while reading it.

3) This was the second-worst thing I've ever read. The first-worst thing I ever read was The Great Gatsby. I wonder if F. Scott Fitzgerald was a Tolstoy fan?

4) How many trees had to die for this book to be printed? It should be a law that they can only print five copies a year, and only on recycled paper.

5) Why did I want to read this again?

I'm sorry to all of you who liked it. But for me, it was torture. Nailing my lip to the floor would've been less painful.

Edited 29/1/12 to add further thoughts. Here there be a spoiler or two, though not very detailed.

Okay, now that I've had time to soothe my brain, first with cuddly animals, and then with the cadences of Stephen Fry, I feel more ready to actually give reasons why I didn't like War and Peace, rather than just sputtering and fuming about how horrible it was. Are you ready? Okay, here we go.

The characters are not at all likable. In some cases, because we don't know them well enough, such as in the case of Count Ilya Rostov, who we know is good-natured but apparently bad with money, but who we never get to know. In other cases, it's simply because when we do get to know the characters, they suck.

Prince Andrei, for example. All he does is whine. He thinks deep thoughts about how everything's meaningless and none of it does any good once you're dead. And that's all he does. Pierre, too. Depression and 'profound' thinking seem to be all they are capable of doing. And their thought processes don't even make any sense sometimes. Leaving aside my personal disagreement with their ways of thinking...what's attractive about a character who does nothing but whine? I found myself hoping they would die soon so the whining would stop. Prince Andrei did have his moment, however; when he was in love with Natasha, he was actually kind of fun and sweet, although he still had to wangst about his father disapproving of the match.

Natasha also becomes more and more annoying over time. While she is always selfish, her sweetness and kindness (when finally roused enough to take notice of someone else) and her charm make her at least tolerable. At first. Then she joins in on the whining and you want to kill her. Sonya also is annoying, because there's nothing to her besides 'I love Nikolai'. There her depths begin, and there they end. There's nothing else about her. Princess Marya, too, is one big long whine-fest. Nikolai would be tolerable, since he gradually stops whining and crying all the time, but then he starts whining again. Just internally, so the other characters don't have to put up with the whining, only us lucky readers do.

What's worse, to my mind, is that while we're told the characters develop, they never actually do--and if they do, it's for the worse, not the better. The only character I actually liked--Vanya Denisov--eventually reappears as a complacent, self-absorbed officer--or so he came off to me. It was very sad.

The other major problem is that Tolstoy seems not to be aware that a novel is not an essay. Let me repeat that, just so we're all clear: A Novel. Is Not. An Essay. Evidently, Tolstoy was not aware of that. Either that, or he was working on War and Peace and an essay on historical theory at the same time, and the two accidentally got mixed up. Somewhere is an historical theory essay with bits about Prince Andrei and Pierre conversing in the middle of it.

I could handle the parts where we were working from Napoleon's or Kutuzov's points of view--but the tangents where there are no characters at all, just ranting on and on about how we're all pawns to history--these are unacceptable. They do nothing to drive the plot, nothing to develop the characters, and nothing to explain the events at hand. In other words, they're part of the fat that a responsible editor should've chopped out. It was intensely frustrating to be reading about Nikolai and Princess Marya, and then to be left dangling while Tolstoy indulged his need to whine.

So that's why I didn't like it. The characters were whiny and unlikable, and there were huge chunks that didn't belong in a novel at all.
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Reading Progress

October 12, 2011 – Shelved
November 24, 2011 – Started Reading
November 25, 2011 –
page 35
November 25, 2011 –
page 48
November 26, 2011 –
page 62
November 27, 2011 –
page 64
December 3, 2011 –
page 149
December 5, 2011 –
page 160
December 6, 2011 –
page 184
December 7, 2011 –
page 205
December 8, 2011 –
page 238
December 8, 2011 –
page 282
December 10, 2011 –
page 385
December 11, 2011 –
page 404
December 13, 2011 –
page 426
December 13, 2011 –
page 448
December 14, 2011 –
page 469
December 15, 2011 –
page 479
December 16, 2011 –
page 508
December 18, 2011 –
page 520
December 19, 2011 –
page 551
December 26, 2011 –
page 654
December 26, 2011 –
page 730
December 28, 2011 –
page 762
December 30, 2011 –
page 865
January 1, 2012 –
page 1000
January 5, 2012 –
page 1009
January 7, 2012 –
page 1072
January 7, 2012 –
page 1083
January 9, 2012 –
page 1105
January 14, 2012 –
page 1142
January 16, 2012 –
page 1155
January 17, 2012 –
page 1200
January 18, 2012 –
page 1220
January 19, 2012 –
page 1242
January 20, 2012 – Finished Reading
June 13, 2013 – Shelved as: classics
June 13, 2013 – Shelved as: fiction

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer 82%? the torture is almost over!

Wendy Jennifer wrote: "82%? the torture is almost over!"

Yep, I'm getting there! I'm gonna make it! :D Only 255 pages to go!

message 3: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer While War & Peace may be the second worst peace of so-called "literature" ever written, your review of it was quite possibly the best thing i have ever read. Congratulations on finishing one of the longest (and worst) books ever. Bravo!

message 4: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer While War & Peace may be the second worst peace of so-called "literature" ever written, your review of it was quite possibly the best thing i have ever read. Congratulations on finishing one of the longest (and worst) books ever. Bravo!

Wendy Jennifer wrote: "While War & Peace may be the second worst peace of so-called "literature" ever written, your review of it was quite possibly the best thing i have ever read. Congratulations on finishing one of the..."

Thank you, thank you! *bows* Later on, I'll probably add more stuff, explaining why I didn't like it, but for right now I just wanted to asplode about it. :) And now somebody on PBS requested it so soon it will be gone forever! Muahahaha! :D

message 6: by Reema (new)

Reema Reading this when it was published, in a time lacking the many devices of entertainment we're blessed with today might make sense. Putting yourself through this long misery when you aren't required to read it, just for bragging rights, seems the case with most reviewers. The only other people who go through reading this, are trying to get at exactly why the heck it has the reputation it has. Some seem to even rate it highly, participating in the trickery out of bitterness, for having wasted their time & being unable to accept the fact that they have. If I went through reading over a thousand pages of a book that doesn't benefit me in any way, I too would probably find it difficult to admit I've wasted my time. Thank you for being brave, honest, and not participating in tricking the masses & building hype over this... this.. sh.. sh... shockingly boring novel.

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