Well, this is very, very belated indeed, but it is a post I have been planning to write for a long while.

I thought I should put down my final thoughts on War and Peace, after having spent a full year – well, 13 months, really – blogging about it, a chapter at a time.

I’ve written so many words about the book, that there’s not a lot left, but I will say this:

  • I still think it’s one of the greatest novels ever written. And the reason for that, quite simply is that is one of the most human novels ever written. The way it expands out, with more and more characters entering the pages – it’s like real life. As you go through life, you meet more and more people, some of whom will go on to be important; others of whom you might never meet again. But all of them are three-dimensional and human when you do meet them. And that’s what you get in Tolstoy.
  • I love his sense of detail. While there is certainly a larger over-arching story to everyone’s lives – it is in the mosaic of our earthly moments, that our story is told. We could have read about the history of the wars of 1805-1812. But by reading this gigantic book, with its hundreds of different mini-scenes, we lived through it.
  • I love Tolstoy’s characterisations. I can never get past the example of the old aunt at Anna Pavlovna Scherer’s place in the opening chapters. No one wants to meet her, and yet everyone has to be polite to her. It seems to real and a situation that we can all relate to it. And for the most part, in the book, I can relate to the characters I read about.
  • I love the length. I believe that something happens when you read a long book or watch a long movie. You become more attached to the characters and become more involved. You definitely get that feeling with War and Peace. Though, it must be said, I did find it runs out of steam a bit at the end. But that’s not the end of the world.
  • I love its accessibility. Many of the books we regard as “classics” nowadays can be quite hard. You’ve got to wrestle with Shakespearean dialogue if you read his plays. Dickens, while very witty, is somewhat torturous (is that just me?) Poe will keep you awake all night, but only if you make it through the first couple of pages of most of his stories. But with Tolstoy, the writing is easily understandable by most readers. His descriptions are to the point, but never minimalist, so there’s always something interesting going on.

So, there you have it – War and Peace. I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who embarked on this crazy reading project that I came up with last year. Thanks especially to those who made it through the whole thing – I’m thinking particularly of Dave, Carly and Ian – but there may be others out there that weren’t commenting but were following along. If that was you, I hope you enjoyed the experience as well.

I’d certainly like to try something like this again with another big epic – but Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None seems like a nice little bite-size piece to try in-between something bigger. I hope you can join me on that experience as well.

Finally, I have one more War and Peace related item – but that can be in the next post.

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3 thoughts on “Final Thoughts on War and Peace

  1. Thanks for encouraging me to read it. I felt like your explanation was helping me follow it – I may well have given up without the blog to read.

  2. I certainly agree with most of what you say, Matt, about War and Peace here in your final commentary – although, for me, even at the end it didn’t run out of steam … partly because I was ready for it this time around, partly because of the need to find in each chapter something to add to the daily commentary and partly, I suspect, because of my own almost obsessive-compulsive need to not see any faults in something I have decided I like!

    As with you, the old aunt in the opening scene stuck in my mind, too, as the quintessential example of how Tolstoy crafted his characters, so that even those who are in the background have a crucial role to play – which, of course, is ultimately just how Tolstoy sees history anyway. While that Aunt does not appear in the Bondarchuk film, she does appear in the BBC mini-series, and they really portray her delightfully well even though I, personally, thought that version of W&P was just too, too British for me.

    But my final word really must be with you, Matt. Thank you, so, so much for such a terrific blog and for coming up with the idea in the first place. You did a fantastic job keeping it going, especially with a new child entering your life in the middle of it all. Going through War and Peace in this way – the daily chapters, the daily ideas, the daily exchanges, has made the whole experience of reading this richest of books even richer. Just the simple need to write something each day about it in response to your posts in itself made me look deeper into the writing than I would otherwise have done – and it has, as an extra bonus, given me a whole new perspective on reading books and, even, on listening to music – making me stop and think “what would I say about this if I had to write a blog on it?” So thank you for all the inspiration and enthusiasm.

    I probably won’t get involved with “And then there were none” but hope to keep in touch here and there, off and on, into thye future. Thanks again, Ian

  3. Thanks for your efforts Matt. Your blogging has been quite helpful for the experience.

    I got a little sidetracked through the year so I’m still going, but I will finish this year! My wife was able to finish on time (perhaps early!) and she really enjoyed it.

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