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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't be afraid of the page count - breathtaking work, 31 Jan. 2012
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This review is from: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy [Annotated] (Kindle Edition)
I understand why people are put off reading this book. It's a mammoth undertaking just in page count, and the language is not as quick to read as 21st century English. Russian names make the mind reel to grasp some idea of pronunciation and the immense geography can be muddling.

But, and it's a very big BUT, if you can put aside the latent fear of commitment to such a book, you will not be disappointed.

War and Peace describes the years of war in Russia against Napoleon. Naturally the War proportion is dedicated to this. The Peace proportion revolves around a number of families, their ups and downs, all of whom have some tie to the war in that they have loved ones in the military, are involved in an official capacity, or are off to war themselves. Tolstoy weaves all together beautifully and simultaneously provides us with a valuable source on the history of the Russian Napoleonic wars, with the occasional short chapter given to discussion and analysis of war and of spirituality. He made great effort to ensure the accuracy of his facts, dates, and characters such as the Tsar and Napoleon.

It is a book from which you establish favourite characters and favourite situations. Some will love the Austen-style sub-plots of romance and emotional turmoil. Others will love the military aspect - battles and strategies and how they came into effect.

War and Peace is engaging, illuminating, and gives an incredible insight into the times in which it's based. There are some quite amusing observations of national identity and they ring true against today's perceptions. The descriptions of certain illnesses suggest first hand experience of them, at least as a witness. Very striking though is the psychological insight given through the introspection of his characters. As we read their self analysis, we recognise various motives, thoughts and emotions in ourselves. A lot can be learned about the self in reading this book in addition to history and much brief yet profound wisdom. His short description of grief through his characters is stark, honest and the most accurate I've read.

In his epilogues, the discussions of both history and spirituality are revisited in greater depth and perhaps give a better idea of what the title of the book truly meant to Tolstoy. War and Peace is frequently said to be the greatest novel ever written, and it would be hard to find another that undertakes such massive subjects, offers so much depth and does so in the form of a novel. For the sheer amount of exploration found in War and Peace, it is really not that long at all.
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