This book is #16 on my Classics Club list.
War and Peace is well-known for being an absolute behemoth of a book. Full of deep characterisation and intricate plotting, it would probably take several reviews to begin to cover all the material in this 1,300-page novel.
So instead of trying to pick apart the immense complexity of this book, I’m going to go in the other direction, and simplify it as much as possible. Because I don’t want to bore you, or end up re-reading the entire book again (seriously, if I have to re-read this thing straight away I will cry). Also there’s a new season of Call the Midwife on at the moment – I mean… I have much work to do for… uni. Yeah. Um. Uni work. That’s right. So in the interests of brevity, I present you with:
Ten Things I Learnt From Reading War and Peace
1. Historians suck. They majorly suck. Why? Because they’re not nearly as clever as Tolstoy, that’s why. So instead they write about ‘destiny’ and ‘great men’ and ‘the will of the people’, and bore readers with extremely long expeditionary essays that seem to – OH WAIT. That’s exactly what Tolstoy does. Only in reverse. Gasp!
2. Napoleon was a massive dick. If you don’t believe me, read every book about him ever.
3. Natasha Rostova FTW.
4. Family life is the best. Everyone should go away and make happy little families, especially the women because, let’s face it, they live for that crap (seriously, Natasha and Mary may as well be walking around with matching ‘I Heart My Husband’ t-shirts by the end of the novel).
5. War is bad. In case you were on the fence about this issue.
6. Am I the only person who felt cheated by the fact that the last part of the book is literally just essays on the subject of war and history? It’s like watching a great season of Parks and Recreation and then finding out that there’s a mandatory quiz about small-town American governmental policies in the Obama era tacked on at the very end. I’m not saying the subject isn’t interesting in itself, but surely telling your readers the exact moral of a story once you get to the end of it is a little patronising?
7. Also, the moral of this particular story, if you’re a woman in early nineteenth-century Russia, seems to be that you can either be a religious nutjob like Princess Mary (good), a spontaneous and passionate girly-girl like Natasha (also good), or a real grade-A bitch like Helene, in which case you’re going to conveniently die of some terrible disease so your husband can marry someone else. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. At least you’ll have nice shoulders.
8. Don’t join the Freemasons. Seriously, those guys are crazy.
9. Always listen to nineteenth-century Russian peasants (this information is equally applicable to the twenty-first century, in case you’re wondering). They may never have read a newspaper or had a proper wash, but they’ve got it right, man.
10. Aaand finally, if you ever find yourself in early nineteenth-century Moscow, you may want to clear out of there pronto, because the French are about to make a very big mess.
Rating: 4 Stars