Top positive review
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This is how is should be done........
on 6 February 2011
This book has been on my reading list for a long time, but for some reason I have avoided picking it up - Perhaps because of the size (I am against Kindles in principle), or perhaps because of the stigma attached to this mammoth classic, I just assumed it was going to be beyond my mental faculties and I was certain I was never going to be able to finish it.
I could not have been more wrong. It took me a month to read, it was never a chore to pick up and now that I have finished it, I miss it.
This book is many things - It is a study on how war affects life of men and women, it is a detailed analysis of the was tactics during the Napoleonic war with Russia, it is a family saga, a coming of age tale, a quest for the meaning of life, a romance, an ode to Russia and, above all, a 900-odd page tale of what makes us human.
Don't let the huge cast put you off, as the central cast is small enough, and the characters vivid enough to pose no problem in telling them apart. We have large, awkward, well-meaning lost soul Pierre, illegitimate and massively wealthy, and his devastating and unfaithful wife Helene. Then we have Prince Andrew; moody, elegant, intelligent, capable, vulnerable, a perfect masculine hero. His pious sister Princess Mary is one of the strongest female characters; She starts out plain, timid, terrorized by her father, resigned to her destiny as a spinster, but as we get to know her we see she has a heart of gold and incredible strength. Then we have the Rostovs, with the distre Count Ilya at the head of the family slowly driving them to financial ruin, the over-bearing and hysterical Countess and her children - Nicholas, Petya and not least, Natasha - Enchanting, innocent, impetuous, full of life and energy and vivacity. There is Sonya, the poor relation living with the Rostovs whose only comfort is her unwavering love for Nicholas and her satisfaction in sacrificing herself for her benefactors. There are beautiful villains like the dangerous Dholokov and Helene`s selfish, spoiled brothers, Anatole and Hippolyte. Then you have comrades in arms like Denisov, the hairy, loud well meaning friend of Nicholas Rostov and Platon, Pierre`s companion as a prisoner of war. There are cameos by Napoleon himself as well as Tsar Alexander, and a myriad of characters slipping in and out of the tale whose only importance is to create the rich, detailed and heady backdrop of this epic tale.
I found myself gasping, laughing, crying and shuddering (make no mistake - the scenes of war and its aftermath are - as they should be - graphic and disturbing), as well as blown away by some of the profundity of Tolstoy's observations of human habits.
I think this book should probably be read more than once, as all the intricacies are too many and too tightly packed on the page to be picked up in one read-through. My advice is, invest in a hard-back copy, try to rid yourself of any preconceptions before you pick it up for the first time, and go back to it every now and then. This is the hum-dinger of all classics, and an absolute must for all dedicated readers.