Read By Mitchell Stuart
War and Peace: Five reasons you Should Read the Best Novel Ever Written
When asked by somebody if I can recommend them a book and I respond with War and Peace, I generally get two reactions. The first and the most common response is one of laughter and the suggestion is disregarded entirely. The second, which doesn’t happen very often, is met with amazement and curiosity. “You’ve read that?!” They exclaim! “Yes!” I say and you absolutely should too! The feeling that I got when I finished War and Peace can be compared with when you finished that series on Netflix and you felt a little empty inside. It took up nine months of my life and whilst I can’t say it was easy, it was like saying goodbye to an old friend when I had turned its last page.
Just like an old friend, when I hear about it spoken in a negative way, I leap to its defence. I hate to hear a bad word said against it. Unfortunately, Tolstoy’s masterpiece gets its fair share of stick for being, “too long”, “depressing”, “boring”, “too convoluted.” You may not know it, but you need to read this book. Make no mistake! To further back up my theory, I have compiled a list of five reasons War and Peace must absolutely go onto your reading list. If you need more convincing, then read on!
1. It Continues to Relate to Our Modern World – Essentially War and Peace is about people finding their own way through a country going through social and political change. Remind you of anyone? Their lives are being turned upside down because of it and it is causing a whole lot of confusion. Many of these issues are happening to people in the present day and so the novel continues to be relatable, throwing up the same questions that our characters ask and that you probably have at some point. It becomes so easy to share their angst and despair when the issues are so relevant and it could easily be us in their shoes. Tolstoy has a lot of important things to say about these changes that we go through, his message that moments of crisis or extreme sorrow are necessary and lead to personal growth that we never imagined, inspires us to tap into deeply stored strength in times of hardship.
2. The Best History Lesson You’ll Ever Have – Phillip Hensher at The Guardian wrote, “Anyone who tells you that you can skip the ‘War’ parts and only read the ‘Peace’ parts is an idiot.” Whilst I won’t go as far as calling people idiots, I do absolutely agree with him. The ‘War’ parts are integral to the story, they contain some of the most important parts to some of the characters lives. My mind automatically jumps to Prince Andrei Bolkonsky and his moments looking at the glorious immensity of the universe whilst lying injured on the battlefield or Pierre Bezukhov when he goes to join the Russian army and fights in the Battle of Borodino. Skip these parts and you’re missing out on vital parts of the story. Tolstoy brings the historical side to life going into details that a lot of historians miss out on. The way he portrays the Battle of Borodino has inspired Russians to consider this battle fought in 1812 to be a unique Russian victory. It inspired the retreat of Napoleon from Moscow and changed the course of European history forever. Tolstoy’s version of this battle is held in as high regard as many historians and soldiers alike and is a testament to how well War and Peace was written.
3. The Characters – One of my personal reasons that War and Peace is my favourite novel are the characters. There are so many of them! If you count all the minor ones that the book touches on there are almost six hundred! Although it may be confusing at first trying to work out who is who, Tolstoy brings his characters to life in such a way that they will soon become recognisable to you as you begin to settle into the book. Although there are a great many characters, I found myself focused on the Bolkonsky, Rostov and Bezukov families and their comings and goings throughout the novel. The way that the character’s stories and lives flow independently and concurrently with each other really is exquisite. There isn’t a protagonist and no character is all good or all bad. Tolstoy ensures a level of impartiality which leaves you to form your own opinions of his characters and believe me you’ll have many! From the beautiful Natasha Rostov who you see grow and transform from a girl who steps out into the ballroom of her first dance to the headstrong woman who loves fiercely to the confusing Pierre Bezukov who we meet as an irresponsible young scholar, who we eventually come to see in the battlefield. They transform from page to page, you experience their highs and their lows, you suffer in their sorrow and you celebrate in their rejoice. This novel is a literal emotional rollercoaster and you are powerless to stop it.
4. A Quest for a Deeper Meaning – I’ve seen War and Peace being described as, “one of the wisest self help books you will ever read.” As mentioned in point one, Tolstoy poses questions that you have probably asked yourself. Through his characters, he isn’t offering an answer to the situations that life throws at you, more an attitude to overcome them. For all the tragedies that you find yourself questioning, a part of the story opens that you never thought imaginable. A part that would never have been possible if the original tragedy wasn’t to occur. These moments shape our characters and make them into the people they grow into. Throughout the novel, you can see our characters really questioning the ‘norms’ and rejecting ideas that are the common theme. Through them I believe he’s encouraging us to live our lives the way we believe to be right, not aspiring to social norms and encouraging us to ask the important questions. You’d be hard pushed not to take something away from this brilliant piece of literature.
5. One of the Most Engrossing Reads of your Life – When I received my first copy of the book, my first observation was how thick it was and how tiny the writing. It was a lot of words. It was intimidating. Intimidating still was the fact that a tiny moth flew out of it as I was flicking through the pages (true story). This wasn’t a book that had been picked up in a while. Once you get down to reading it you are whisked into a world of aristocracy, battlefields, love stories, heartbreak, grief and so much more. You will stop focusing on the length and wish that it never end. Tolstoy catapults you into a world that brings his characters to life around you. You become so emotionally invested in them that you can’t help but read on in desperation to find out what happens to them. There has been many an immigration line at JFK airport that has been made infinitely better as a result of this book and for that alone I am forever grateful to Tolstoy!
“But it’s too long!” “I don’t understand French!” “It’s too heavy to carry around with me!” Whatever ridiculous excuse that you give to not read this book, find a solution! Break it into sections, get a decent copy with French to English translations, get a Kindle. Whatever it is that enables you to read this book. Do it! Read it! You won’t be disappointed. Then once you have. Give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve just climbed the Mount Everest of fiction! How cool are you!?
This book is one of my favourite Githic pieces I really enjoy it see what others have said…..
“War and Peace is not so much difficult as it is long. Dig in, though, and you’ll quickly see why Tolstoy’s exuberant opus—set in the years just before, during, and after Napoléon’s invasion of Russia—is arguably the greatest novel of all time.“
As you can probably tell this book is up their for me as one of the all time greats. Its story has been regailed by many and although caan be seen as a daunting read once opened its hard to put down. If you have the time I highly recomend delving into this book. I hope you enjoy the review of it as well Mitchell Stuart.