For ATY’s 2019 Reading Challenge prompt #27 – a book from the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list – I chose to read War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace is one of those great Russian classics that you either feel that you must add to your “someday” read list, or avoid like the plague. Just the idea of it is daunting.
I opted for the audio version of this book, thinking that listening to a huge classic might be easier than reading it for myself. I’m not convinced that is true.
War and Peace follows the story of several Russian families over the back drop of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Tolstoy alternates sections of historical review of the wars and the narrative of the characters’ lives.
The level of detail in this book is exceptional. Tolstoy clearly researched his topic thoroughly. There were moments I could have believed he was relating a personal experience as I listened to the battle scenes. To be honest, I had a hard time staying focused through a lot of the historical review parts, though this could be because I chose to listen instead of read the book for myself.
I found myself more engaged in the story during the narrative sections. I became quite invested in the lives in the characters and was at times moved to tears over their plights. They endure great hardships and celebrate great joys. Tolstoy writes about people from all walks of life, from the Tsar Alexander and the nobility who surrounded him down to the peasants at the lowest level of Russian society.
War and Peace has such a daunting reputation, I honestly wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it before hand. I’ll admit, I was intimidated by it. But I still wanted to experience some Russian literature for myself. A couple of years ago, I chose to read Anna Karenina, also by Leo Tolstoy, thinking that it might be less difficult. Now that I’ve experienced both books, I realize I was wrong in my thinking. Despite its size, War and Peace was much more accessible to me than Anna Karenina was.
I would definitely consider reading this book again some day as I find time. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. If you haven’t read it, maybe it’s time to add it to your list. It might not be an easy book to read, but it is a worthwhile book.