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Angury

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

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This tome has quite a reputation, and one which I'm sure many of us have wanted to conquer. I imagine this book is on many people's to-read lists on this forum.

 

I finally decided to give this a go a few weeks ago, as I had exams coming up, and when I revise I always try to find a nice novel to read alongside as a relaxing break.

 

Tolstoy has a gift in creating complex characters. The entire story creates a beautiful arc of human life; from our desires of wealth and status to our internal agonies that we battle everyday.

 

I always tried to avoid this novel because I assumed it would be far too dense for me. On the contrary, I think it is a story that anyone can read and relate to. Even though many of the characters reside within the aristocratic circle, we can all empathise with their hopes and their dreams, as they are dragged through their turmoils during such a chaotic time in Russian history.

 

I liked the fact that the story was set in reality, yet was a story of fiction and creativity. Tolstoys essay in his Epilogue, and indeed his writings throughout the chapters left me with a lot of thoughts to dwell on: how much of an impact do our own actions and feelings have upon those around us, and ultimately on our society as a whole? Who is ultimately responsible for history? For all the battles, all the deaths, all the families torn apart and the lives taken so early? We are often quick to land judgement on the politicians of the day, but I think it would be a far more fruitful exercise to look within ourselves.

 

I would love to hear other peoples thoughts; I think this is the type of book where readers can take away their own meaning based upon their unique life experiences.

 

Also, I have just watched the recent (2016) BBC Adaptation of this novel, and I would highly recommend it. It is incredibly cinematic, with some beautiful locations shot and an incredible array of dresses and ballgowns, and ultimately I feel it stays true to the novel.

Edited by Angury

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I took it ....War and Peace...to Austria on holiday in 2014. My wife found it in my rucksack and admonished me as I had begun reading a huge novel in addition to carrying Tolstoy.

Not tried it yet.

 

As for your point regarding history and responsibility I feel we are all responsible for how history unfolds.

Great post Angury.

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I avoided it for years, for all the reasons already mentioned. When I

finally got round to reading it, I loved it! Well written characters with

realistic (for the period) dialogue, and on heck of a plot. Complex,

yes,but not mind blowingly so. I have read it three times now,and

find something new in it at each reading. Must disagree about the

2016 TV version though; I thought it was dreadful. Six episodes was

way too short to do the book any kind of justice. So I got hold of the

older series from the seventies, twenty episodes long. Much better!

Anthony Hopking gave his all in that version as Pierre (Yes, I know

that in the novel Pierre is a giant of a man,and Hopkins to be polite,

...isn't!) But the seventies version filled in so many of the gaps that

(to me) were blindingly apparent in the newer version.

Edited by timebug

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I avoided it for years, for all the reasons already mentioned. When I

finally got round to reading it, I loved it! Well written characters with

realistic (for the period) dialogue, and on heck of a plot. Complex,

yes,but not mind blowingly so. I have read it three times now,and

find something new in it at each reading. Must disagree about the

2016 TV version though; I thought it was dreadful. Six episodes was

way too short to do the book any kind of justice. So I got hold of the

older series from the seventies, twenty episodes long. Much better!

Anthony Hopking gave his all in that version as Pierre (Yes, I know

that in the novel Pierre is a giant of a man,and Hopkins to be polite,

...isn't!) But the seventies version filled in so many of the gaps that

(to me) were blindingly apparent in the newer version.

 

Interesting take on the BBC Adaptation. I didn't really notice the scenes that were left out from the book as I felt the cinematic nature of the series, particularly the locations and the background music made up for a lot of the story that was missing. I felt that as the audience we weren't left feeling overwhelmed with the different character arcs as they were woven in between the chapters in the book, but that the important plot points were left in and we were expected to draw our own conclusions about the characters and their relationships.

 

I haven't heard of the older version, I will certainly look it up.

Edited by Angury

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The older version is  complete to watch on YouTube.I started

watching it that way,and then about four episodes in, the DVD

box set appeared in our local shop, so my elder son got it me

for my birthday!

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I had to do it for my school project, a long time ago, and done it halfheartedly as I wasn't ready for it. Now I'm ready, but deliberately delaying inevitable...It's hard read.

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I had to do it for my school project, a long time ago, and done it halfheartedly as I wasn't ready for it. Now I'm ready, but deliberately delaying inevitable...It's hard read.

What do you think makes it a hard read?

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What do you think makes it a hard read?

The fact that I was young when I read it , the timing was wrong, and it always stayed in my memory as a hard read. I should re-visit it again...

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The fact that I was young when I read it , the timing was wrong, and it always stayed in my memory as a hard read. I should re-visit it again...

I'd certainly recommend it. I've read it twice now, once in my early twenties, and again a couple of years ago. On both occasions, I became totally absorbed in the narrative, finding it eminently readable, with superbly developed characters that one could really relate to. It's got a reputation as a 'big' book, but that really is based only on the number of pages.

 

I was in two minds about the 2016 TV serial. I can't say that I found Pierre at all convincing - he seemed to be drugged up on sedatives most of the time - but others were excellent, particularly the Bolkonsky family, whilst Natasha and the Rostovs grew on me. I know what you mean by the gaps, and I think it missed something distinctive by being reduced to six episodes - the immensity is part of its character and appeal - but still thought it an interesting and rewarding take on the story. I agree though that the earlier version is better, although I've not watched for a few years.

Edited by willoyd

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I still prefer the 70s version by a mile. We had the same problem with

last years 'Poldark' adaptation. Having seen the original version with

Robin Ellis, we found the new one too rushed at eight episodes.The

earlier version took 12 episodes to cover the same ground,and having

read the books, were more rounded out and fulfilling. Horses for courses

I suppose; a certain group cannot watch anything too long as their sparrow

brains can't handle it! A long,well crafted story, be it War and Peace or

Poldark, deserves a little time getting to know the small details that make

the book such a captivating read in the first place (I.M.O)

I agree that the latest War and Peace was visually stunning, but to me,

still lacking.

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I thought it was a tremendous read. The length was daunting, but I found it was quite easy to get into, and the characters are very well developed. There is certainly so much to think about, take away, and see in a new light when you read it again. It was very clever, the way it was so full of everything, woven into each other, but still accessible. 

On 5/14/2016 at 10:19 AM, Angury said:

This tome has quite a reputation, and one which I'm sure many of us have wanted to conquer. I imagine this book is on many people's to-read lists on this forum.

 

I finally decided to give this a go a few weeks ago, as I had exams coming up, and when I revise I always try to find a nice novel to read alongside as a relaxing break.

 

Tolstoy has a gift in creating complex characters. The entire story creates a beautiful arc of human life; from our desires of wealth and status to our internal agonies that we battle everyday.

 

I always tried to avoid this novel because I assumed it would be far too dense for me. On the contrary, I think it is a story that anyone can read and relate to. Even though many of the characters reside within the aristocratic circle, we can all empathise with their hopes and their dreams, as they are dragged through their turmoils during such a chaotic time in Russian history.

 

I liked the fact that the story was set in reality, yet was a story of fiction and creativity. Tolstoys essay in his Epilogue, and indeed his writings throughout the chapters left me with a lot of thoughts to dwell on: how much of an impact do our own actions and feelings have upon those around us, and ultimately on our society as a whole? Who is ultimately responsible for history? For all the battles, all the deaths, all the families torn apart and the lives taken so early? We are often quick to land judgement on the politicians of the day, but I think it would be a far more fruitful exercise to look within ourselves.

 

I would love to hear other peoples thoughts; I think this is the type of book where readers can take away their own meaning based upon their unique life experiences.

 

Also, I have just watched the recent (2016) BBC Adaptation of this novel, and I would highly recommend it. It is incredibly cinematic, with some beautiful locations shot and an incredible array of dresses and ballgowns, and ultimately I feel it stays true to the novel.

Angury, you had an interesting point on what history means today. I never thought about it that way! (Another wonderful thing about the novel; so many takes and ideas on what is contained in the book.) 

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I am about a third of the way through. I think it is the detail that makes it. Early on there is a battle at Schöngraben. The battle is so fully described. I thought Tolstoy must have been drawing on his own experiences fighting in the Crimean War. I was beginning to think the war bits were better than the peace bits, but I have just read several chapters describing a ball from a perspective of a pretty, sixteen-year-old girl who loves dancing. I have never been a pretty, sixteen-year-old girl who loves dancing, but it seemed like a pretty good stab at describing one.

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23 hours ago, KEV67 said:

I am about a third of the way through. I think it is the detail that makes it. Early on there is a battle at Schöngraben. The battle is so fully described. I thought Tolstoy must have been drawing on his own experiences fighting in the Crimean War. I was beginning to think the war bits were better than the peace bits, but I have just read several chapters describing a ball from a perspective of a pretty, sixteen-year-old girl who loves dancing. I have never been a pretty, sixteen-year-old girl who loves dancing, but it seemed like a pretty good stab at describing one.


who is the translator? I found my copy mundane but it may have been the translator

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52 minutes ago, lunababymoonchild said:


who is the translator? I found my copy mundane but it may have been the translator

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. The Times seems to think it's a good translation. 

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One thing that makes the book readable, despite its length, is that most the chapters are fairly short. That means you can take as long as you like to read it. 

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57 minutes ago, KEV67 said:

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. The Times seems to think it's a good translation. 


That's the one I was recommended. 

 

55 minutes ago, KEV67 said:

One thing that makes the book readable, despite its length, is that most the chapters are fairly short. That means you can take as long as you like to read it. 


I'll probably give it another go at some point. I gave away my paperback but still have the e-book and I'm a totally different reader now.

Edited by lunababymoonchild

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I don't know what to make of Tolstoy. The British writer he most reminds me of is George Elliott. The characters are grown-ups. Some are immature. Some are vain. Some are ambitious. Some are capable. Some are not. Some are vicious and small minded. Others want to do good. It is all mixed in with the politics and the high society of the time. 

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44 minutes ago, lunababymoonchild said:


That's the one I was recommended. 

 


I'll probably give it another go at some point. I gave away my paperback but still have the e-book and I'm a totally different reader now.


 

I was wrong, had a wee look and I have the unabridged Maude translation.  I'll still have another go at some point. 

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I read W & P when I should have been revising for my mock O levels (which dates me!). I lay on my bunk and read obsessively for 10 days and did all my exams with practically no revision. My marks surprised all my teachers who started muttering about me perhaps not being so thick after all.

 

I've never tried to reread it because I'm afraid I wouldn't capture that magical immersion I felt aged 15 but most of the plot is still very clear and I'm still furious about how Tolstoy portrayed Natasha in the last chapter.

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Just Volume 4, part 4 and the epilogue to read. It turned into an appraisal of history for a while. I don't know what historians think of Tolstoy as a historian.

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Got to say I am not enjoying the epilogues much. The second is mostly a boring essay on social science. The first was mostly a boring essay on the limitations of history writing. The first epilogue is slightly interesting in that it contains traces of the book Tolstoy originally intended to write. Just got seven more pages of the second epilogue, and Tolstoy's appendix, then that's another big beast whose head I can mount on the wall 

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