A Lot of War and Very Little Peace

war and peaceI meant to do this review immediately, but my mind was slightly numb after finishing it and as anyone that follows me on twitter might know- I was absolutely *shvitzing* yesterday! So on with the review…

For so long, I have treated this book as a massive challenge (I mean it is literally *massive*). So in all my calculations about how long it would take and how hard I would find it, I didn’t actually expect to enjoy it. I never considered what it might be beyond that. And my goodness- I couldn’t have been more shocked. Because I loved it. Yes- I realise it’s no ground-breaking statement to say I loved a major classic that so many people have loved before me. But in a way, it’s ground-breaking for me and my silly brain that was so distracted by the humongous size of the thing, that I never thought to consider what was inside (boy does that sound like a weird innuendo!)

Anyhoo- in true bizarro fashion, I’ve as yet failed to review this book- somehow going on a random tangent- which is admittedly appropriate when talking about a book that, in true epic fashion, is 90% tangent 10% plot. Yet- don’t let that put you off! I know, I know this is rich coming from me (who just wrote a whole post about the boring bits in Classics) but in this instance, I can say *categorically* that I wasn’t bored for even a second! Yes- a friend of mine did warn me about the “dull” historical parts- but personally, I found this fascinating instead of dry. Rather remarkably, I found this loose history of the Napoleonic wars, both informative and educational. I found that, as Tolstoy discussed historical theory at length, my mind actually switched on instead of turning off. I am therefore delighted to say that this book wasn’t even remotely dry- but was in fact invigorating and one of the most intellectually stimulating books I have ever read. It is in part a philosophical indictment of individualistic history and in part a criticism of individuals in history. My only complaint is that it made my brain feel a little fried from all the concentrating and thinking it had to do- which is not a bad thing!

In terms of plot and character, the world Tolstoy created with his intricate, beautifully constructed imagery (which thankfully survived the test of translation) that everything in it was so vivid and impossibly realistic. I mean it was so real, that Tolstoy himself rocked up within his own pages to validate the reality of his world (no word of a lie!) I know us bookworms like to say this a lot- but while I was wrapped up in this book, everything in it felt more real to me than my own life! I fell so quickly into a world that was totally alien to me; I forgot straight away that this was a world long forgotten. Because the remarkable thing about a book like this is that it stands the test of time. Impossibly, Tolstoy still speaks to the modern reader just as much as his contemporaries.

Beyond the characterisation and the surprising relatability of their relationships, it is the themes of War and Peace that make this book a timeless masterpiece. Because even with its historicity and context, it is still one of the most human and relevant and universal books I have ever read. The depictions of war and the garish contrast with so-called peaceful societies is a wakeup call of human cruelty. In fact, the ability to ignore the reality beyond the drawing rooms and dances of imperialist Russia highlights, more than anything, the ghastliness of warfare.

Which leaves me with this…


Rating: 5/5 bananas


Have you read it? And if you have- did you spot the Tolstoy cameo? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!


33 thoughts on “A Lot of War and Very Little Peace

  1. I haven’t read it – mostly due to the length and the fact that I have a family that likes to interrupt me when I’m reading (even when I’m about to get to the important parts). But I recently ordered the new miniseries from Netflix, so at least I’ll finally have an idea of the storyline. 😉 No, I’m not cheating. 😉

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  2. You sure have a thing for long novels, huh? I’ll admit I’ve always wanted to read Tolstoy but the size is a bit overwhelming. This really is classics month. Did you by any chance do a guest post for Pages Unbound’s event? You’re one of the few bloggers I know that also enjoys a good classic novel. One day I will read all these long novels and feel a sense of accomplishment. 🙂

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    1. haha I definitely do 🙂 It was overwhelming for me too, to be honest, cos this looked like one monster of a book- but in the end it was so worth it! No I haven’t seen it- but I’d love to check it out 🙂 – can you send me a link? Ahh I know- that’s the plan, isn’t it? 😉

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      1. It’s funny how classics are always big books that would never make it to publication with today’s standards. I wish some of them were a bit smaller. The size is so intimidating. 😂 The event is hosted at pagesunbound.wordpress.com.

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  3. I’m reading this right now, and have been struggling with it. I just hit the 25% mark yesterday, and the story has picked up and now I’m invested in the characters. Basically it was Bolkonski getting injured that drew me in – that scene where he sees the “lofty sky” was beautifully written.
    It’s a tough one to read as there are so many characters. I keep having to refer to my notes to remember who everyone is.
    I’ve heard that the recent miniseries was pretty good and worth watching.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah it isn’t an easy book by any stretch- but it is well worth it in the end. And as you said, you do get seriously invested in the characters once you get into it. Ahh that scene was sublime. haha it is tough- and I did have to flick to the characters list at the front from time to time 🙂 Yeah so have I- funnily enough when I finished I no longer felt like watching it, cos I just enjoyed the book too much!! (if that makes sense) I’ll have to save it for another time!

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  4. I’d have thrown it out the window too! War, what is it good for Rofl. I’ve heard that Ayn Rand is boring but I’ve really enjoyed her books. I’m glad you enjoyed this!

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  5. Great review. Heavy on the inuendo!! 😉 and i love the seinfeld part. But I think the history part does sound a little tiresome for me as i’m not to into that but you really do make it sound like a great book!!

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  6. Even having not read it, I’m glad you liked the history bits. That feeling where all the meandering bits of a classic come together for you and *work* has happened in other books for me, and it’s the best thing. It’s one thing to say you’ve read a classic and another to say you’ve loved one.

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  7. Woah, you read very ”serious” books. I still have to read Anna Karenina, which I started a WHILE ago but found too easy to read, so then I thought maybe I didn’t have the right edition, but turns out I do. But by the time I realized that, I lost interst 😛 Maye it’ll come again!

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    1. haha I do from time to time- when I’m not hooked on the next big YA thing or rushing through a thriller 😉 Yeah there are lots of editions and translations- mine was tough, but very good in the end 🙂 Ah yeah definitely 🙂


    1. Yay!! I’m so glad you want to read this- it is amazing! Absolutely- I definitely agree- it was the vintage classics version by richard pevear and larissa volokhonsky- it’s a great translation, because even though it’s tough and includes French passages (which are translated at the bottom of the page) it’s very beautifully done 🙂


  8. I must admit the size of the book has always put me off but reading this (and the fact it’s free on Kindle) I might just add it to my To read list. I did promise myself to read more of the classics. Love your banana rating system by the way.

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  9. I’m so glad this book surprised you!! Like you, I’ve been intimidated by the size and the reputation… And so I haven’t read it yet. I love the idea that the author has criticisms about history, points to make, and that this comes across in an intellectually stimulating fashion. And the 10% of story sounds interesting too! Glad you loved it honey and I liked the review BTW!

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