Book Review: War and Peace

“The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.”

~ Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

It has always been my desire to incorporate book reviews into the blog: to inaugurate the series we will start with the Russian classic War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.

This 1386 page (in my edition) goliath of a book, with its story taking place in the early 1800s and covering over 15 years of history, is quite a commitment to finish. But I do say this was perhaps the best commitment I have ever made. I have come to the conclusion that book needs to be this long in order to house the stories and themes contained within it. There is nothing at all that is superfluous, and it reads as well as any book out there. The characters are its great treasure. The ability of the author to put into words the feelings and emotions of individuals and nations as a whole is amazing. It truly makes me sad knowing it is all over. In its pages you will observe the psychological and spiritual developments of the many main characters in the story as they grapple with life, twisting and turning in its grasp. At one moment, you can be sympathizing with a man, and later on you will find yourself cursing him. All the while, one is treated to an expertly crafted and engaging analysis of the Napoleonic wars, from the Italian campaign all the way to Moscow. The plot is far from predictable, despite being a historical novel. Having read and enjoyed Andrew Roberts’ biography of Napoleon, and in general being a fan of Napoleonic history, it was funny and interesting to see the portrayal of the French and Napoleon himself in the eyes of a Russian writer. Despite the hints of prejudice, Tolstoy is generally fair in his analysis, giving credit where credit is due. Having at least a superficial understanding of the period and the figures involved in the Napoleonic wars is very helpful. There are many scenes in which I simply could not believe what I was reading: the portrayal of human nature and of the tendencies of human society are so on point and relatable that, upon finishing the book, it is no surprise this is considered a classic of Western literature and one of the greatest novels ever written.

I could go on about for days about my favourite characters and scenes in the book, however I will not spoil it for you. I know, its super long, but just read it. You wont regret it.

“To love life is to love God. The hardest and most blessed thing is to love this life in one’s sufferings, in undeserved suffering.”

~ Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Next on my summer reading list, and leading candidate for the next book review, is Don Quixote.


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