If you read “War and Peace” or at least you’ve seen a printed copy, you must be thinking “how can she write a single post as a review of one of the longest and greatest books ever AND also cover the TV series?” …
And you’re right! A single blog post would not make justice to properly review this masterpiece and its adaptation. That’s why the aim of this post is to offer a short glimpse of the “War and Peace” universe and argue that it deserves a chance despite its scary length.
In a tiny nutshell
The “War and Peace” story has two overarching components: the illustration of the 19th-century Russian aristocracy and the depiction of the Napoleonic Wars.
The book touches upon (almost) any topic you can imagine, ranging from family life and love stories to battlefields, leadership, bankruptcy and Freemasonry. It also covers the psychological effects the war had one people and philosophical discussions about many topics.
It is for sure one of the most influential books of all time, and maybe “the most impressive-sounding book to ever brag about reading” (Shmoop) 😉
The story about how the book was written is very interesting. Tolstoy was 35, recently married, and the father of a newborn baby when he began writing “War and Peace “(1863). Tolstoy intended to write a short novel about revolutionaries returning to Russia after 30 years of exile in Siberia. But as he was writing, Tolstoy figured out he needed to tell the story of 1825 in order to offer a good context of the narration. And with this logic he followed the line of events, going back from story to story until he reached the year 1805. The final version of “War and Peace” covers the events between 1805 and 1820, meaning that it is temporarily ending 36 years before the events he originally wanted to write about.
I liked a lot the Russian aristocracy storyline. Even though I was confused at times about the characters* (because they were so many!), the dynamic web of relationships was very well constructed. Secondly, I was impressed by how realistic the characters were! Tolstoy has a beautiful and simple style of writing that makes you resonate with his characters. Seeing how people develop across more than 15 years, during difficult times of war, makes you grow fond of some characters by the time you end the book.
“War and Peace” is not only milk and honey. If you’ve followed my reading journey, you already know that it took me almost 3 months to finish it. There were parts that did not catch my interest, especially the battlefield scenes, and I must confess that sometimes I was not reading them in detail.
Other parts I did not enjoy at times were the philosophical discussions. While some of them were quite interesting (like the one about the random character of war), others were a bit too much for my reading taste.
The TV series
This review would not be complete without mentioning the recent adaptation of “War and Peace” by BBC – a short TV series (6 episodes) that follows mostly the non-war parts. I watched the series after reading the book and I liked it a lot! It depicts very well the atmosphere described in the book and I think the actors were very well chosen. Not to mention all the beautiful costumes! ❤
Actually, after seeing the TV series I started to be more interested in the story itself. That’s because while reading the book I got lost in details and webs of relations at times, and the episodes showed a simpler version that was much easier to follow. Check out the trailer here.
To conclude, I truly think that Tolstoy’s story deserves a chance to be discovered. For me, it was fascinating to see how a book written in only six years, without the tech tools we are so used to nowadays, has such a complex and coherent narration and touches upon topics that are still valid in today’s world.
If you don’t have the time or the enthusiasm to read the book, I encourage you to at least watch the TV series. “War and Peace” tells a beautiful and touching story that is worth investing time in.
‘Till next time … happy reading!
(*) A small trick I used while reading the book was to watch the trailer multiple times, to help me build a visual image of the characters. I personally need to visualize things in order to not get lost in all the details and webs of relations, so the trailer was a perfect solution for me.