I must admit, I find the tangents that War and Peace takes towards the end more noticing than at the beginning of the novel. At the beginning, everything is new, and you don’t know who will be a main character or what you should pay attention to.
By the end, you’ve got your main characters that you’re following, and you’re interested in their welfare – and yet here we are sitting around a campfire with a bunch of soldiers that we’ve never met before.
Why? It would kill an ordinary novel.
But this is life. This is one of the places that Tolstoy wants us to visit to understand the effect this war had on the soldiers. What’s amazing is that the conversation is so jovial, when the topics are starvation, mass death, and the need for shoes . . .