I read this . . . so you don’t have to. And please, if you’re thinking of reading it anyway, just don’t. Try some Turgenev. Or anything else, really.
Also, I read this entire thing on my phone. Thanks, Serial Reader app! It only took me seven months to read 235 installments of this book.
This was a slog.
Ol’ Leo apparently couldn’t decide if he wanted to try to write Anna Karenina (which he did, later) or publish his dissertation about the motives of war, military strategy, how historians should address historical events, and philosophical musings about the theory of the The Great Man. I’d say War and Peace gives you about half a story and about 9,000 lectures of historical analysis.
If you’re looking for a great epic novel like Anna Karenina, this ain’t it. If you want to read an expository text about military strategy and philosophical musings about how historians should approach battles with the benefit of hindsight, please, enjoy this dry, Homeric tome of pedantic scholarship. Maybe since he got all this analysis of politics and society in 19th century Russia out of his system, it freed him to go on and actually write a novel.
There are some good parts that I enjoyed. I liked Pierre and was fascinated with his time as a French prisoner of war. It was interesting. The rest of the characters . . . eh. Didn’t care. That’s a lot of reading for “didn’t care.” In War and Peace, Tolstoy also has a 13-year-old girl’s perspective of romance. Girls develop crushes instantaneously, boys see a girl at the opera one time and become obsessed. I think he was bored with the fiction parts and just wanted to get back to telling us why Napoleon wasn’t really all that great.
Leo, please, kill your darlings. You’re boring the shit out of us.
Try Anna Karenina instead! It’s like a Russian, Victorian Downton Abbey! I still love you, Leo, but I’m glad this is over.