It’s been almost a year since I started reading this, one chapter per day. Matt put out the challenge, and has been faithfully blogging about each chapter as we go through. I’ve found this tremendously helpful in understanding some of the more obscure topics and characters, especially given my lack of knowledge of the historical events.
I first heard of this novel in a “Reader’s Digest” joke:
Have you read War and Peace?
War and Peace is one of the great novels that everyone must read before they die. I’m saving it for insurance.
Matt in fact gave me a copy of the book (the edition I ended up reading) as a birthday present a few years back, but remembering the joke above, I didn’t end up even starting it: it just taunted me with its many pages, and many characters.
In the end, it’s been a really worthwhile read. As a mix of fiction and coverage of historical events, it’s not pure escapism. Tolstoy presents so many characters in different times and stations of life that you feel like you’ve learned a lot about what it means to be alive by the end of it. He spends chapters building up relationships between characters, only to finish such subplots with throwaway sentences.
In the end, it’s the sweeping arc of history that concerns him, not the small events of life that are covered along the way. And yet it’s precisely these small details that make it so worthwhile. Set in the early 1800s, much of what is covered is timeless. If you’ve been putting off reading this book, you should try and read it through, a chapter per day, next financial year.