For the relatively small expenditure of a few pounds I immersed myself, for several days, in one of the most magnificent examples of art available in any medium. To add to the hype seems superfluous. The story holds its own dignity amongst many fine examples in world literature. Tolstoy's exceptional talent captures the vast expanse of human experience and thought through the lives and loves of some of the most finely crafted fictional characters ever created. The subtlety of this work lies in the manner in which the various characters interact within the moral constraints of the novel's setting: the aristocratic playground (Petersburg, Moscow and the rural estate) of late Tsarist Russia. For such an immense country the few privileged members of Russian (suffocatingly nepotistic) Society are able to attract the best jobs, lucrative marriages and most of the agriculturally profitable land. This sphere of wealth, power and social dominance infects all Tolstoy's characters with varying degrees of hilarity, wit, intelligence, irony, angst, bitterness and sadness. Some of the best examples of Tolstoy's art are to be found at the races, in the spa resort, the deathbed scene, local authority elections and during the many 'intellectual' debates. But Tolstoy's real literary magic and the force driving forward the story are manifested in the internal thoughts and physical quirks of the main characters. Attributes we all possess and can recognise. It is this aspect of the novel that I adored the most; at times the emotional intensity was overwhelming.