The scope of this book is what makes it so marvelous. That murderous lunatic, Napoleon Bonaparte, has romped through Europe and Africa, leaving behind the carnage of war, and now turns his attentions to Russia. This is where Tolstoy picks up the thread of his tale. It revolves around some 5 families who, in one way and another, are profoundly affected by the ensuing events and the chief protagonist is Pierre. It is through his eyes that we experience the consequences of a Nineteenth Century war.
The characterizations are all meticulously drawn. The common soldier and the general are equally attended to, as are the plebian and emperor. Napoleon and Alexander represent the pinnacles of both armies and one expects that historians only will remain to clinically commentate on the actions of each. But Tolstoy brings them to life in a way that the reader, unnoticed, can reach out and touch them. Not only they but every character is beautifully portrayed. Laugh at Denisov with his amusing lisp. Growl at Helene the man-huntress. Sympathise with Andrew who is in a marriage he despises. Hug Pierre for being so human. Be blown away by the descriptions of battles both in drawing rooms and fields.
War & Peace is a book that no serious reader of literature should overlook. I only wish I could read it in Russian because translations are so inferior to the original. But even the translations cannot hide the fact that this is one of the all-time greats.