My Love-Hate Relationship with War and Peace

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”
― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

War and Peace is a great Russian masterpiece by Leo Tolstoi. I disliked it before it even began. In the edition I read, there were some forewords from Leo Tolstoy himself. In foreword, he tells how War & Peace concentrates on the life of aristocrats. He says that he knows that merchants, peasants and musicians exist but that he thinks that their lives are too monotonous to describe. All what these people can think of is how upper classes are better and be envious and greedy about it. Their lives are not beautiful nor does telling their story represent the era. Moreover, he says how he could never understand what baker thinks of when he sells the bread neither he wants to understand what cow thinks of when it’s milked.

“Everything depends on upbringing. ”
― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace


Of course, he says biggest reason to think like this is because he is aristocrat himself. He loves beautiful art and beautiful clothes. He concludes that he doesn’t believe that anyone but aristocrats would have higher intellect, acquired taste in art and even a bit of honesty in them. After saying all this, Tolstoy apologizes, he says that now you know and you might see him as reactionary idiot before you even read the book.

Of course when you get to the novel itself, it’s stunning. Tolstoy has appealing views on humanity. For example Nikolai Rostov realizes in the battle how his enemy is another human being, just like him. The author said himself that War and Peace is “not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle”. War and Peace is everything. It is very (,very, very) long (which makes it hard to read sometimes) and at times it is difficult to grasp, yet it’s really beautifully written book and it has beautiful and deep set of answers to life’s every situation. I love how the author writes the history of  the Russian nobility dvoryane, the historical details and simply how he writes about war. If you’re unfamiliar with Russian history, reading this book is a great way to start.

“Man cannot possess anything as long as he fears death. But to him who does not fear it, everything belongs. If there was no suffering, man would not know his limits, would not know himself. ”
― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

War and Peace circles the life of five aristocratic families but there are hundreds of characters in this book. From all walks of life. What makes it so difficult to review this book is that it can’t be put to any genre or even be compared with any other novel.

Finally, (after years of reflecting on this great classic) when I think back to forewords of the book, I think Tolstoy knew exactly what he was doing to me. I am pretty sure he wanted me to be a bit frustrated about his views.  After all, Tolstoy had read Les Misérables and he praised Victor Hugo after reading it. These two novels are written for different point of views, however in many ways they are highly similar. Do I even hate War and Peace…No,

I’d give War & Peace 4/5 stars.

How-To Read War and Peace
1. You can find it for free in eform, for example on Project Gutenberg. It’s really a massive book with nearly 1500 pages so take your time with it. It might seem dragged at some points but Tolstoy explains the characters, surroundings and events in depth.
2. Prepare to encounter great amount of different characters and in case you like deep characters and characters who constantly develop during the book, this book is for you.
3. If your edition has forewords from the author, don’t read them before you have read the whole book and reflected on it.
4. If you did not enjoy reading War & Peace, do read Anna Karenina if you haven’t. Anna Karenina is amazing and my favorite book of Leo Tolstoy.
5. Read it because you’ll be so happy to have finished it whether you liked i t or not, now you always have something to talk about in all the book clubs.
6. If you love this book, do read Les Misérables as well. You will love it!

“It’s not given to people to judge what’s right or wrong. People have eternally been mistaken and will be mistaken, and in nothing more than in what they consider right and wrong.”
― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Have you read War and Peace? What did yout think of it?

7 thoughts on “My Love-Hate Relationship with War and Peace

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    1. Errr… yes haha. I think I have quite radically changed my opinion on this novel. I think I maybe never reflected on it quite as much as now when I re-read it and wrote a blog post about it! I am very glad I did now!
      Also, I don’t know how did I ever miss all the connections between War and Peace and Les Misérables…and between Victor Hugo and Lev Tolstoy…
      Agreed, Resurrection is great read! :)

      1. Well you have a right to change your opinion :) blogging is very useful when to think of reading, because you have to reflect maybe more than you normally would. I did not know that Tolstoy had met Victor Hugo in person before he wrote W&P! Looked it up after I read your post

  1. I have about a hundred pages left of W&P, having read it alongside other books as I like a few on the go at any one time, and have found some of it very annoying, and just when I think I really don’t care what happens to these often vacuous, mercenary, people, something awesomely exciting happens. I will be glad to get to the end, and I am glad I have read it, but it really needs to come with some certificate that can be printed out, or a badge. At least a gold star sticker. Yeah, I’m gonna buy some gold stars and stick on in my diary the day I finish it :)

    1. Hey congrats on almost having finished the book!! :) Haha, certificate or badge would be great for so many books…someone should make those! Even if I really love bricks…War and Peace still almost felt a bit too long…It was a challenge. What other books were you reading alongside W&P? :)

      1. I started W&P back at the end of last year, so have read a few things since then, including Middlemarch, Madame Bovary, The Goldfinch, Wolf Hall and some other things I’ve forgotten. I needed to get out of Russia and gangrenous limbs now and again ;)

        1. Aaa :) I see, just wondered if I would discover some new good books haha. I still haven’t read that Donna Tartt book and Wolf Hall is in my TBR list as well. Haha oh I read all the big names in Russian classics practically at once…eventually I was quite fed up with the genre so I understand haha, better to have some pauses in between 👍

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