Book Review: War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy

September 16, 2013

War and Peace by Leo Tol­stoy is a fic­tional book first pub­lished in 1869. The work is regarded as one of the most impor­tant works of world lit­er­a­ture. The copy I read was trans­lated by Louise and Aylmer Maude.

  • 1350 pages
  • Pub­lisher: Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press, USA; New edition
  • ISBN: 0199232768

Book Review: War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy

My rating for War & Peace – 5
Great price on this book in paper or elec­tronic format

More books by Leo Tolstoy

It took me a while to read War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy, not only for the obvious reason (1,024 pages) but also because I read it in spurts, between reading other books.

If you didn’t read War & Peace you should, not only is it full with studies of the human condition, but also full of wisdom which is still relevant to this day. I felt that I learned a lot from reading this book, not only about history, but also about culture and human intelligence.
It’s too bad that if Tolstoy would have lived today, War & Peace wouldn’t even have been published. It’s not popular, too long and too tiresome – they would say. But this is real literature, with validity and artfulness.

The novel is in all actuality a soap opera which is a bit formulaic even by today’s standards. The story of three families which the narrative moves around; characters come and characters go, lovers split up, make up or die and friends fight.

I’d like to say that I’m not recommending War & Peace because it’s a famous book, or considered a classic, or because I’m afraid that I’d look like the uncultured, uncouth shcmo which I actually am. No, this is an excellent book which is still relevant despite being written long ago. Tolstoy’s existential thinking, philosophical musings and observation of humans falls just short (if at all) from the Bible. The analogies to this day and age could be made with ease and the historical aspect simply raises the book to another level.

One of the benefits of reading this famous book, which everyone talks about but few actually read, is the bragging rights which come with this accomplishment.

Book 1 Part 1
Book 1 Part 2
Book 1 Part 3
Book 2 Part 1
Book 2 Part 2
Book 2 Part 3
Book 2 Part 4
Book 2 Part 5
Book 3 Part 1
Book 3 Part 2
Book 3 Part 3
Book 4 Part 1
Book 4 Part 2
Book 4 Part 3
Book 4 Part 4Epilogues

Great price on this book in paper or elec­tronic format

More books by Leo Tolstoy

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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  • Sharon Henning September 16, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    So you’ve finally finished my favorite book of all time. You’re right. It is like a big soap opera with lots of colorful characters. I think if more people understood that they wouldn’t find reading it so off putting.

    I also agree that it lacks the formula for a successful novel today (lack of graphic sex, violence and language, dystopian viewpoint etc..)

    I love how Tolstoy doesn’t allow you to pigeon hole his characters The ones you’re ready to hate, he turns around and makes them objects of compassion.

    Young, foolish girls like Natasha mature into responsible and devoted mothers…bumbling, clueless Pierre starts to figure out life and learns to love all people unconditionally.

    I wanted to hate Princess Elena, but she was a tragic, empty person, after all, whose life ended sadly. (But I’m still glad Pierre got to marry Natasha in the end.)

    Tolstoy is the most insightful writer I’ve ever read. You compared his perspicuity to the Bible. I contend it was his devotion to God and his Christian beliefs that endowed him with this gift.

    I think reading War and Peace is the equivalent to bungee jumping. You took the plunge and then get to brag (as you say) about doing it.

    My mother has read War and Peace three times…what does she get? 😉

  • Lisa September 21, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Okay, okay – I’ve put this one off more because I thought it was going to be dull, not so much because of the length (although that’s certainly a consideration). I’ll have to pick it up someday. But first I need to finally finish Les Mis!

  • Helen Maryles Shankman September 25, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Hi, Zohar–

    I just clicked on this, ready to read your review, and then I realized it was in many parts! I’ll have to come back to it after the holidays, when I have time to sit and read.

    Now that you’ve finished this…time to read “Life and Fate” by Vasily Grossman! He based the composition of his book on “War and Peace.” It’s about World War II, from the Russian perspective. And it’s phenomenal.

    • Zohar - Man of la Book September 26, 2013 at 8:18 am

      Thanks for the recommendation Helen, I checked it out and you’re right – it’s a “must read”.

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