I 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!