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on August 7, 2011
What a grand, sweeping and majestic piece of literature. A work of fiction, history and philosophy all in one. Both enrapturing and infuriating. Enraptured by the level of detail and the ability to paint a mental image in one's mind with such marvellous prose and style by drawing the reader into the lives and emotions of the main characters as well as the culture that existed in 19th century Russia, as well as describe the events, the sounds and the immediacy of battle and those who took part in it within the backdrop of the Napoleon`s eastward march, unlike anything I've read since Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning `The Killer Angels'. Infuriating in trying to keep straight the intertwining characters of all three families with their confusing Russian names, and the constant switch of dialogue to French, forcing one to endlessly refer to the translation at the bottom of the page. And I most certainly could have done without Tolstoy's tediously mind-numbing philosophizing of war and the course of human events in the concluding epilogue. Such is the work of great literature, I suppose. Admittedly, there were a couple of times I was tempted to cast the book aside, but the pull exerted by the Balkonskys, Bezukhovs and Rostovs proved too strong not to learn how their fates would conclude.

Daunting !
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on August 14, 2017
Yes... it did meet my expectations... I'm especially impressed with the delivery... only a couple of days or so...
I'm basically a new customer to Amazon... and I love it.... Thank you!
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on May 29, 2017
The book was not as advertised. It was vol.7 only not the full book. and a bad production item. I returned the book for credit.
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on August 20, 2015
Exactly what I was looking for. No complaints.
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on June 8, 2017
Great book but very disappointed that audio link does not work
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on November 28, 2016
I decided to read War and Peace in a kind of “eat your peas” moment—a quest to add some “quality” to my reading experience. I’d read a lengthy review wherein War and Peace was described as “the only novel you will ever need to read.” Well, if I’d just landed from Mars, never having heard of these things called “novels” and read War and Peace as a trial, I’d never want to read another one. What a slog. In one of my past lives I came across Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing. Number 10 is “Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” I’m guessing he wrote that one after reading War and Peace.

In the end, I’m glad I read the book, but instead of “Now I feel enriched”, it’s more in the way you get up in the morning, do a few stretching exercises, take your vitamins and go for a run or something. In the end you are glad you did it, but mostly because, having done your penance, you can now get on with the rest of your day.

The main event in War and Peace is Russia’s war of 1812 with Napoleon. But it’s no “war novel”, with troop movements and battle heroics. Tolstoy is more interested in the personal thoughts and motivations of the characters, and there are hundreds of them, with dozens of main characters. Getting into the minds of the characters is usually a sign of a good writer, but Tolstoy carries it to the extreme. He goes on and on (and on and on) telling us what’s going on (and on and on) in the bowels of the minds of the characters way past where it adds anything to the plot. Think about it: Unless your name is James Bond (and maybe even then) your life, recorded thought-by-thought, minute-by-minute 24/7, would make a very dull tale.

For a typical instance, early in the book we are presented with the thoughts of a young air-headed rich girl getting ready for her first ball. She’s fussing with her gown. Adjust it here. No, adjust it there. Darn, tore a bit of lace. Get the house serf to fix it. Fuss with mother’s hair. Fuss with sister’s skirt. Fuss with father’s hair. Fuss with skirt (again)….Finally get to the ball. Stand at the side. Talk to sister so you won’t look like you’re waiting to be asked to dance. But filled with dread because you know, you just know that no one will ask you to dance. Catch the eye of a rich, eligible prince. Dance with him all night. A little while later accept his proposal to marry. But then in the boredom waiting for the day, make plans to run off with a rake who has a (fake) priest lined up so he can “marry” you, boink you, then abandon you a hundred miles from home. The plot is foiled by her family but when the prince hears of her willing participation, he withdraws. All at age 15. Now a girl’s first ball is no doubt very important and stressful to her. And a charismatic man-of-the-world might seem attractive compared to a more sensible suitor. And near the end of the book she turns into a (more-or-less) responsible mother so the earlier passage has a small (small!) impact on what passes for plot. But OH MY GOD LEO! Did it really have to take 15,000 words? (And did I mention there are dozens of main characters! Each, to Tolstoy, deserving of such character development?) Argh! Kill me now!

War and Peace is an intimate look at the lives of a bunch of idle, (mostly) filthy rich Russian aristocrats who’ve (mostly) never done an honest days’ work in their lives. And dumb, most of them are dumb. On the eve of battle the most important thing is to throw a big drunken party for a visiting dignitary. Stoopid. With two “o”s. Stoopid. (It is widely agreed that Napoleon’s biggest mistake was outpacing his supply lines as he advanced quickly to Moscow, but there is some controversy about why such an otherwise brilliant general would have done that. Personally, I think it was the sheer joy killing those brain-deaD Russians by the hundreds of thousands—it was just too much fun to stop and wait for the supply wagons to catch up.)

So what do you get from reading the un-abridged 1300 pages of War and Peace instead of the 13 page Coles Notes? “History”. I guess. (Tolstoy is said to have spent several years interviewing eye-witnesses and reading—and poking holes in—the official histories.) “History” that may help you make sense of other, later events. For instance, concurrent with reading War and Peace I listened to a series of podcasts about World War 1. After reading War and Peace I could easily understand why Russia did so poorly on the Eastern Front—total incompetence—nothing had changed in a hundred years. And the Bolshevik revolution finally made complete sense to me too. I mean, if I were a Russian worker-bee, after so many centuries of bad, incompetent rule, communism (even if I’d known how it would turn out 70 years later) would seem like dying and going to heaven. So you get “History”.

To be fair, you also get Tolstoy’s prognostications on human motivation, and this finally gives some value in return for reading the whole thing (hence the rating of “3”.) War and Peace is divided into four books and within each, a number of parts. Many of these books and parts begin with a several-page insight into some human foible that is related to the story of War and Peace. (Think of these as a soliloquy by the author.) These are fascinating and build on each other. At the very end, the second epilog, you get a very nuanced and insightful commentary skewering the “Great Man” theory. (In fact it reads as if this epilog is Tolstoy’s main purpose, with the entire novel simply a preface.) Now I’m not saying that I agree with Tolstoy on all (or any) of his arguments, but they are worth reading. You will not find arguments like Tolstoy’s anywhere else. If you are interested in studying the moments on which history turns, you must read this. Unfortunately if you skip the whole novel and just read the second epilog you will miss so much context you will not get the impact that this section deserves. But it seems a shame that getting that impact takes so much work.

So here is my recommendation for getting 90% of the value of War and Peace for 1% of the effort.

First, read the following Wikipedia pages:
- The War of 1812 between France and Russia. This will give you basics of what happened, albeit with the party line on Russia’s and Napoleon’s motivations.
- The Great Man theory of history. This will give you background and some conflicting opinions on what is Tolstoy’s favorite topic.

Second, find the Wikipedia entry for War and Peace and either keep it open or print it off.

Finally, crack open War and Peace and read it concurrently with the Wikipedia entry. Start at Book One, Part One and read Tolstoy’s introduction. When Tolstoy switches to a third person narrative, read the Wikipedia entry for that section and jump ahead to Book One, Part Two. Again, read Tolstoy’s commentary and switch back to Wikipedia as soon it switches to narrative. (Some Parts don’t have a commentary.) At the end, skip the first epilog and go to the second. You can probably get through the book in a long afternoon, and will retain enough to baffle your way through a college literature class.

(The battle of Borodino is a decisive battle, referred to in most histories and explanations of this war. If you want to read Tolstoy’s version it starts at Book Three, Part Two, and runs through chapters 20 – 39.)

Good reading. You’re welcome.
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on September 28, 2014
I am not a translator so am unable to comment of the quality of the translation except to say that the resulting Englsh (including the French) is fluid and poetic reflectng the quality of the original masterpiece..
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on March 15, 2017
I feel like an idiot even thinking about writing a review of "War and Peace,' but since I just re-read it, by God I'm getting a review out of it, and adding it to my official book count. So what to say about this stunning, confounding, confusing, maddening, amazing work of literature?

First of all, if you're approaching W&P for the first time, throw away all your preconceptions of what a novel should be like. Forget everything about tightly plotted character arcs and all that nonsense. W&P is a novel, but it's also so much more than a novel, so the "rules" for novels don't apply here. What you have here is not art, but life.

Or rather, what you have here is life raised to the level of art, not brought down to the level of artifice. Although W&P is in fact very sturdily constructed, and holds up to repeated reading well, Tolstoy rails against everything artificial and contrived, and W&P is the opposite of the novel that reads like a novel, or the work of art(ifice) that is clever for its own sake. Instead, what you get is a book in which everything is presented simply, naturally, where Life in all its profusion of details, confusion, and heartache reigns supreme. Births, marriages, battles, and dinner parties all appear with equal weight. Which is just as it should be. Today's dinner party is more important to us than next year's or last year's battles, and may be just as revealing of what really matters.

Not that the book is boring, or rather, for each reader there will probably be boring stretches, just as there is in life, but there are also great and tragic romances between seemingly star-crossed lovers, epic battles, duels and executions, the burning of Moscow, and everything that makes a great cinematic extravaganza. Think "Game of Thrones," but set during the Napoleonic wars, and with a philosophical footing. Because as the novel continues, Tolstoy grows ever more interested in important questions such as "Who makes history?" and "What is fate vs. free will?" Did the War of 1812 turn out as it did because of specific actions of Napoleon and Kutuzov and Alexander I, or were they just corks caught up in the tide of history and the general national spirit, working the will of others even as they thought they were imposing their own stamp on the world? These are the kinds of things Tolstoy the narrator contemplates, as do some of his more philosophically inclined characters.

I almost wrote "self-aware characters" there, but that would have been wrong. All of Tolstoy's characters are self-aware, or if not, then Tolstoy is aware for them. Perhaps one of the most striking things about the book is how astonishingly modern the characters feel, and how easily they could be transported to the 21st century. They may wear shakos and carry reticules, but, two hundred years before the word "selfie" was invented, they are relentlessly taking internal selfies, constantly taking mental snapshots of themselves, their surroundings, and their behavior, and obsessing over how many "likes" others are giving them, even as Tolstoy is also documenting everything from the outside with his virtual camera. Indeed, one of the more complex things about the narrative is how it switches from third-person omniscient to limited third-person, with interjections of skaz (narration in the form of oral vernacular), letters, historical documents, and philosophical treatises. Not to mention the French.

Ah yes, the French. And the German, and the occasional bit of Italian. "War and Peace" is a book about many, many things, but one of the things it is about is language and, more broadly, communication. The upper-class Russian characters speak French; some of them can really only speak French and struggle to speak Russian, communicating more easily with their ostensible enemies (and even, in one exciting passage, passing themselves off as French while on a mission to spy on the enemy camp) than they do with their "own people." And yet they are also in possession of the Russian soul, something they can access in near-mystical fashion when necessary.

If this seems like a contradiction, it's not. Or rather, one of the things Tolstoy is at pains to demonstrate throughout the novel is the limits of logic. Relying too much on logic makes us blind and deaf, and gets us into all kinds of illogical tangles. It's in our heart where the true truth lies. One can argue with that as also being a limited view, but in the modern, industrial, scientific age, of which Tolstoy was a part just as we are now, challenging the limits of logic is an important stance to take, lest hubris overtake us, just as it did Napoleon.

This is my third read through W&P, and my first of the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation. They're controversial figures in the Russian translation world, but just due must be given for the service they've rendered Russian literature. In their foreword to W&P, they specifically state that they strove to be true to Tolstoy, not "idiomatic," which they rightly argue is neither definable, nor an essential element of great literature. The result is something that, while it does possess the occasional moment of roughness and foreignness to the English-accustomed ear, is probably the closest one can get to reading Tolstoy in the original without actually doing so. Certainly for me, as a native English speaker, reading their translation was a very similar experience to reading Tolstoy in Russian. Which is a great triumph. Everyone should read "War and Peace" at some point, and if you can't read it in Russian, this particular translation may be the next best thing.
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on January 30, 2010
Very rarely can an author create characters that are so multidimensional. They are neither bad nor good, simply human. No author that I have read can so perfectly describe the human experience so eloquently and unpretentiously. It is timeless. Eventhough it takes place in a time and era that has long since disapeared you can relate with the characters as if they were alive today. This book, so simply written is in my opinion, one of the greatest novels ever written. Reading it will make you a better person. A must read for humanists everywhere.
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on April 30, 2004
To fully appreciate this novel, you need to read the unabridged version, not Cliff Notes or some other shortcut used by students. You need to set aside a significant period of time for this (when I first read the novel 40 years ago, I used a week long break between school terms). The story is about a Russian nobel family and their friends and associates over an extended period of time. Young children grow up, get married, have children, and take over the family estates. It is set during (and after) the Napoleonic Wars, the setting being in Russia (to a very large extent in Moscow, but some on country estates).
Tolstoy was a member of the nobility and, by standards of the day, could have been considered a social reformer trying to improve the lot of the peasants. You will usually find a character in his novels that reflects his own attitudes (but not the principal character). He wrote and published novels in installments. To produce this properly in a film media would require making a lengthy TV series, somewhat like "Upstairs, Downstairs." I am surprised that has not been done.
The novel covers the rise and fall of the fortunes of the family and the people around them. The family's fortunes are shattered by a variety of circumstances including bad management of money and the French invasion. Partly the head of the family puts the welfare of others ahead of his own family. When the French are at the gates of Moscow, and they have wagons to save their belongings, they leave their own possessions behind in order to use the wagons to rescue wounded Russian soldiers.
Eventually, the next generation is left with the task of salvaging what remains and restoring the family fortunes.
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