Kimley's Reviews > War and Peace

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
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Sep 19, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: 19th-century, russian-lit

Writing a review of War and Peace seems somewhat silly - what the hell can I add??? But, while it's still fresh in my mind, here are some general impressions...

I have to confess that while I enjoyed the first half of this book, I was thinking 4 stars and certainly not "greatest novel ever written" but once I got to the third volume, Leo's crazy stew really started to simmer up nicely for me. I still don't think it's the greatest novel ever written but then again, I don't think I could say what novel is.

There are so many characters and plot lines in the book that I felt it to be a bit jarring at times, especially in the first half of the book. Just when I was finally feeling entrenched in a character's path, Leo would take me somewhere else. But he starts to bring it all together in the second half of the book and the six degrees of separation all start becoming clear. And there are some wonderful characters here - Pierre and Natasha probably being the popular favorites. I found myself wanting to smack and hug them both constantly which is pretty much how I feel about most of the people I care about.

In many ways this book felt more 20th century than 19th in the complete lack of romanticization of warfare, his bursting the bubble on the idea of war heros/great men in history and his rants on the subjectivity of history and even the subjectivity of reality. Loved all that stuff!

His long rant at the end of the book seemed a bit out of place and too removed from the rest of the book - more a separate piece of non-fictional work. And it seemed somewhat like he was trying to make sure us readers didn't miss the point of what he was trying to say in the "fiction" part of his book. But I'll forgive him (because I'm so generous... wink wink) since he left me with much to ponder and for me a good book is one that I continue to think about long after finishing it.

And now I think a good follow-up to this would be Valley of the Dolls!
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Reading Progress

September 19, 2007 – Shelved
Started Reading
December 1, 2007 – Finished Reading
May 15, 2008 – Shelved as: 19th-century
May 15, 2008 – Shelved as: russian-lit

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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message 1: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

brian   have you started yet? on october 16th the translation by larissa volokhonsky comes out. she translated all the major dostoyevsky novels and, most recently, anna karenina. as i can't speak russian i cannot, with all fairness, comment on her translation, but i've heard that she's the best. to me, her dostryevsky was more enjoyable than the older translations in that constance garnett (and others around that period) did her translations a while back and much of the language seems to reflect the times in which she (garnett) translated rather than when tolstoy wrote it. as i understand, volokhonsky tried to more acccurately reflect tolstoy while also making the reading feel more contemporary, less victorian. (while, being careful not to toss in those annoying anachronous, contemporary references that some translators do... such as napolean calling someone a 'dickhead' or something like that.) -- anyway, my point is that about four of us are going to read the new translation when it comes out and will be blogging as we do it... you wanna join us?

message 2: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kimley Ha! Napoleon calling someone a dickhead! Thanks for the first good laugh of the day. Translation is a fine art indeed! I have started but am only about 150 pages into it and got sidetracked so many months ago that I should really just start over anyway. So, sure I'd love to join. It's great to hear that there are some good new translations available. I'm pretty weak on the Russians - have read Anna Karenina, Brothers Karamazov, Dead Souls, some Chekhov and a few other things but I really have a lot to read. I'll definitely check out her translation of Crime and Punishment.

message 3: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

brian   robert - go to amazon and check it out. it appears to be a big single volume hardback.

can't wait.

the blogging will be done through the book soup website.. for all to participate. will give more details as i get 'em.

kimley - i am (as is robert) a russian lit nut! after W & P, i can give you a lot of recommendations. love all those crazy maniacs. that said... you've read the best of 'em (best of anyone, i believe) in The Brothers Karamazov. i'd say it's my favorite novel ever. yep.

been dying to read Hardy's Tess, even moreso after your comment. think i might pick it up after the weekend.

okay, all -- i'll off to mexico to see morrissey in tijuana and then try and marinate all my major organs in tequila...


message 4: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kimley This is great! I'm so happy to find out about these improved translations and find some guides in my Russian literature education.

Morrissey in Tijuana - rock on! Have fun! He's playing Madison Square Garden next month. I hate MSG but it is Morrissey...

Hardy's Tess - This book was so amazing that I'm a little bit jealous that you'll be experiencing it for the first time. Savor it!

message 5: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kimley Robert, just read the article you linked to on the translations. Really interesting to read how they go back and forth with the literal and idiomatic versions.

Now, I usually avoid those Oprah stickers like the plague but glad to see she's pushing some worthwhile literature.

message 6: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

brian   oprah's recommends are fantastic, actually. she put tolstoy and faulkner on the best seller list! in the 21st century! woo-hoo!

also The Road. a fantastic book that is bleak bleak bleak. oprah (in this respect, at least) is a badass in that she ain't worrying about what 'they' will like - but just trying to get 'em to read (great) shit they ordinarily wouldn't. credit to anyone who can get midwestern housewives (oprah's bread and butter) reading The Sound and the Fury!

message 7: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kimley Yeah, I have to say I think my Oprah Book Club phobia was based on ignorance. I have nothing against Oprah, I just made the obviously wrong assumption that she would put more "middle of the road" fare in her book club.

It's fantastic if people are actually reading more and better quality books because of her. Rock on Oprah!

message 8: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Tosh Like Kimley I run away from the Oprah brand. Yet lately she sort of got into more interesting literature. I hope she keeps it up! As I mentioned somewhere else on this blog, I just finished reading "The Road."

I actually found it uplifting. The father and son has the ideal relationship. In that sense I can fully understand Oprah's interest in this book. Plus the fact that it's beautifully written, etc.

message 9: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kimley For those of you preparing to embark on the War and Peace adventure, there will also be a panel discussion over the next month on the NY Times website:

There is also an essay by Richard Pevear (one of the translators) though it does give plot spoilers so I stopped reading it but here it is for those interested:

message 10: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

brian   thanks kimley. definitely gonna check that stuff out.

charles, the guy putting together our site, has been bogged down at work so said he'll have it done this weekend.

a question: do you guys think we should just make it a club/thread here at goodreads as opposed to a separate site? it will introduce more poeple to the site and will also mean everyone else on goodreads who is not reading it can check out our postings...

hit me back today or tomorrow and i'll get the word to charles in time for our first postings on tuesday...

message 11: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new)

Tosh On a business sense, it makes cents (bad pun) to have it on the Book Soup site. Although at the moment I am sure the discussion would be larger on goodreads.

message 12: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

brian   fuck business. it all goes to goldman anyway.

much more interested in having smart peeps like marshall to watch and, perhaps, join in along with the rest of us who are reading it. it'll also bring various non-goodreaders to the site to host it over here.

i'm gonna talk to charles.

see you at the palladium at 8:30 tosh. woo-hoo!

message 13: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new)

Tosh The thing about Goodreads is that it's a good and friendly site to discuss books. My guess is that the discussion on book soup site will not be that big or involving. I could be wrong, but goodreads is built to have book discussions.

Also one would have to get a google acct. to join the blog on Book Soup. Right? Here anyone can jump in the discussion.

And 8:30 it is!

message 14: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

brian   just spoke to charles and he gives the 'okay' --

the blog will happen here at goodreads. (the link to the site will also appear at the book soup website)

tomorrow i'll set up the club and write the first post...

Kimley Yeah, I finally whipped this bad boy into submission! I was highly motivated by not wanting to carry this weighty tome with me on my upcoming travels.

Still digesting though...

Kimley Yeah, I reread your review after posting mine and realized how similar our reviews were - though yours was far more amusing!

Personally, I think a few monkeys really might have made that ending a bit more fun!

Actually, I loved all the ideas he was going on about in that ending. But it just seemed like he was on a bit of a rant and it removed me so much from what I had just finished that I didn't like that juxtoposition. But as you say, nothing but love for Leo!

Kimley That's so funny, I was trying to finish the book at two in the morning as well. I had 15 pages left to read and just thought this is stupid, go to bed and finish it in the morning when it might actually make some sense. But I don't think it made much difference...

Kimley Yeah, I've been meaning to reply to him. I think people have either given up or feel too overwhelmed to say anything. There's just so much that it's a bit intimidating to discuss without someone holding your hand...

I think we need to go over there and start some trouble! You know - kick some ass, Tolstoy style!

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