Book Review: War and Peace

War and Peace – the book which, in my experience, has become synonymous with “anything long and lengthy”. To summarise the plot, I would describe it as a 19th century Russian soap opera, describing the lives of various wealthy and influential individuals as they struggle to live their lives in a world simultaneously full of war and peace.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about the historical context of War and Peace, and I don’t intend to either – although if anyone can succinctly summarise some key facts for me in the comments I would gladly give them a read! Because of this, I didn’t enjoy Tolstoy’s interruption of the narrative with his own historical judgements and quips. Furthermore, I struggled to determined what was fact and what was fiction, and so a lot of “waffle” regarding battle plans and stratagems went over my head too.

If you are planning on reading War and Peace, it would also be quite handy if you were fluent in reading French, German and Russian, as there are numerous passages written in these languages, reflecting the education of Tolstoy and his target audience at the time.

Yet all is not lost!

I did really like the overlapping storylines about key characters such as Pierre, Natasha & Prince Andrew, which is why I think it’s best described as a soap-opera. The development of the characters’ stances on, for example, morality, religion and love were in-depth and eye-opening, prompting me to think about things too.

To truly enjoy this book, I would recommend you watch the BBC television adaptation of War and Peace, which was aired not too long ago.

I watched War and Peace at the same time as reading it, which was really helpful in distinguishing all the various characters with confusingly similar Russian names and advance the rate of plot in such a way that the boring scenes of battle plans and foreign policies were significantly condensed. I sincerely apologise if I have offended any “die-hard” Russian history fans reading this review!

This review seems longer and lengthier than any others I’ve done so far – quite apt, when considering the length of War and Peace!

Overall, I did enjoy reading this book – I like having a big novel to work through s well as smaller books on the go at the same time because I read sections of my “giant novel” when commuting, making it seem like less of a daunting challenge. So, if long and lengthy novels are your thing, I would recommend that you read it too!

– Judith



6 thoughts on “Book Review: War and Peace

  1. I tried to read War and Peace several times as part of the school/uni curriculum and never got around to finishing it. Tolstoy just doesn’t… intrigue me like other authors of “long and lengthy” books (Dostoyevsky, for example). I settled on reading the battle scenes and some key points in the narrative; his depiction of war events is quite authentic but he’s got a lot of moralizing and personal opinion, I agree. I hope I get around to finishing War and Peace someday and discovering why almost everyone here in Russia is in awe of this book. Glad you enjoyed the book, and it’s a great review!=)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m reading War and Peace now and I fear it will take me a long time to get through. I’m about 15% into the book and am having trouble keeping everyone straight. Great tip to also watch the latest adaptation. I’m torn between wanting to watch it to help me understand who each person is, and not wanting the story spoiled.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The great thing about the adaptation is that each episode sums up a chunk of the novel. I can’t remember exactly but Episode 1 might cover Books 1-2 etc. I found it so helpful in consolidating my understanding of the plot and remembering who everyone was! Keep persevering with it! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like an interesting book, however, did you find the story line to be drab and dry? I feel like lengthy books tend to do this due to the amount of information condensed into it. Great post by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found the “peace” bits more juicy than the “war” bits for sure. Some of it was dull and I think that is a risk of some of the older, lengthier novels about. I try to remember that these books would have been read by aristocratic men in their studies with a pipe etc. and also that “waffle” / verbose language was the popular writing style at the time so these things are to be expected. That’s why I recommend the BBC adaptation so much – it’s great at summarising the dull bits of plot and spending more time on the parties and engagements etc. to make the entire programme interesting. 😊


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