Book Review : War and Peace - Tolstoy At His Best

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When we read a book or a novel, any book foresay, we generally expect the main character, a protagonist or antagonist you can say, the center point on which the story revolves. But what if there is some book that has no main character, with no over-hyped climax or good end yet interesting, something that isn't scientific or informative or just factual but is a story that involves all that. 

And you would clearly not expect it to be a classic of English Literature, right?

Wrong, cause Leo Tolstoy War and Peace ticks each box and is one of the amazing books. It involves the story of Decemberist, Russian history, and all human emotions in a 1200 page of what you can say is an Epic.


Book’s Name - War and Peace

Author’s Name - Leo Tolstoy

Genre - Realistic Fiction

Language - Russian, English

Synopsis - Non-Spoiler Alert!

War and Peace open on the eve of war between Russia and France with Russian aristocrats at a party fretting over the war and then going to the aristocratic favorite topic of money, sex and death. 

Tolstoy had sat down to write war and peace to write about the return of the Decemberist, a band of well-born revolutionaries pardoned in 1856 after 30 years of exile. But how could that be written without telling the Decemberist revolt in 1825? And writing that wasn't possible without mentioning Napoleon 1812’s Russia invasion and events before that. 

So, this book contains all these stories, these tales as to what had happened, what is happening, and what might happen. This book is an ultimate look into historical events, with a blend of facts and fiction Napoleon appears many times and even Tolstoy's ancestor is there as some background character cameo. 

It wasn't just an interrogation of Russian history, but of human history as a man's response to war, psychology, philosophy, love, human nature, and just tempts you to read more and more.

About the Author

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born in September 1828 to a famously eccentric aristocratic family. By the time he was 30, he had already dropped out of Kazan’s University. He gambled away the fortunes of his family and went with his brother to the Caucasus to join the army. 

He first achieved literary claims in his twenties with his semi-autobiographical trilogy. His fiction includes several short stories and novels, memoirs, and received a nomination for Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906.

He also rejected the literary establishment to travel Europe. He believed novels were western European forms and that Russian writers had to write differently because they lived differently. In 1910, at the age of 82, he died of Pneumonia.

About the Book

Once you dive into War and Peace, you realize it's not just one singular book but actually a collection of many books and numerous micro-chapters. The book opens on the eve of war between France and Russia. 

The book talks about Decemberist return in 1856 after 30 years of pardon, their revolt of 1825 against Tsar Nicholas I, Napoleon disastrous invasion of Russia which helped trigger the authoritarianism against which the Decembrist were revolting against, and when the Russians first learned of the threat posed by Napoleon after Russia's defeat at the battle of Austerlitz.

The book contains both the big events of history and the small lives that inhabit those events. The book contained lots of aristocratic views and seldom touched the vast majority of people like farmers and serfs. And you find a diversity of various other emotions and facts in this 1200 page book

Themes Involved 

War and Peace do not involve any singular theme but it's actually a vast interlocking web of relationships and questions. Many stories are going on at the same moment, with various people, facing various situations such as- Will the hapless and illegitimate son of a count marry a beautiful but conniving princess? Will his only friends survive the battlefields of Austria? And about a nice young girl falling in love with both men at once? 

It involves various dilemmas and tropes of various characters featuring love stories, battlefields, bankruptcies, firing squad, religious vision, burning of Moscow, and even a semi-domesticated bear, and many more.

Although with gripping characters and their psychology, Tolstoy often breaks the narrative to post insightful questions about history. So, it clearly just doesn't fall under any novel, epic poem, or historical chronicle, it is what Tolstoy wanted to express in the form it was expressed.

Famous Quotes 

  1. ‘A limit has been set to human life, which cannot be overstepped.’

  2. ‘Everything ends in death, everything. Death is terrible.’ 

  3. ‘Try to weep. Nothing relieves one like tears.’ 

Bottom Line

War and Peace are again one of the most interesting achievements of literature itself. It is a combination of history and fable, with many mental and social themes depicted. Though it is 1200 pages long and quite panoramic, you get indulged in it once you begin. 

A must-read and a great book to enjoy and know Leo Tolstoy's literature.

My rating for the book - 5 on 5

You can buy a copy of this book - War and Peace 

Written By - Ashish Joshi

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