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420 of 428 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Eye of God
Ever since I was a teen (I'm 51) I tried reading War and Peace. The furthest I ever got was something like Page 80. Six summers ago, I thought, what the heck, give it another shot. After Page 100 or so, the book picked up steam, and I was absolutely awed as I've seldom been by all the great books I've read in my life. That's what I want to share with potential readers...
Published on December 22, 1999 by Dennis Dalman

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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Needs a good translation
I have tried reading "War and peace" three times in my life and have failed to get past the first two hundred pages each time. The reason, I believe, is that there is not a single inspired translation available in English. I have tried the three main translations and they all are wooden affairs. Episodes that should be moving are pedestrian. The opening soiree...
Published on June 20, 2001


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420 of 428 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Eye of God, December 22, 1999
By 
Dennis Dalman (St. Cloud, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
This review is from: War and Peace (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Ever since I was a teen (I'm 51) I tried reading War and Peace. The furthest I ever got was something like Page 80. Six summers ago, I thought, what the heck, give it another shot. After Page 100 or so, the book picked up steam, and I was absolutely awed as I've seldom been by all the great books I've read in my life. That's what I want to share with potential readers of this great book. Stick with it. It's like a trickling stream that grows and grows from many tributaries into a grand wide raging river. It's got everything in it, as if it were written by God. Tolstoy saw everything. There are so many, many unforgettable scenes in it. My favorite two are the costume party at the country estate (pure magic!) and the great wolf-hunting scene in which the wolf actually takes on a personality under the all-knowing skill of Tolstoy's great pen. In just a line or two, Tolstoy could actually get inside the "soul" of even an animal! I can only imagine how great this book is in the original Russian. After War and Peace, I devoured Anna Karenina, which is in many ways an even greater book. I'd recommend people read War and Peace with Cliff's Notes, as I did, because you get a sense of the historical background and it helps you from getting the hundreds of characters mixed up. War and Peace is more than a novel. It's an Everest of creation. Please stick with it!
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298 of 312 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply one of the best books ever written, December 1, 1999
This review is from: War and Peace (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I first tried to read War and Peace in High School. A teacher, who had carried the book all through the Pacific campaign in WWII recommended it as a book that had changed his life. I tried three times and couldn't get past a few hundred pages because of the numerous characters - each with multiple names. The fourth time I stuck with it and was rewarded with a reading experience that has seldom been equaled. Since that time I have reread the book every two or three years, so I must have been through it 15 or more times, and each time I find things I haven't noticed before.
This is such a grand book in terms of number of characters in all levels of Russian society, historical scope, period detail, philosophical implications, romance, drama, tragedy, action etc, etc, etc. There is just no way to enumerate all that is appealing about Tolstoy's masterpiece. The main characters are as humanly complex and interesting as real people. I feel that I know them like friends. The plot(s) are involving and get more tight and interconnected as the book progresses, so that there is a great satisfaction as various threads come together, and never with the jarring coincidences that propel a typical Dickins novel.
If I had to pick only one novel that I would ever be able to read again, it would have to be War and Peace. There is so much of interest going on in this book that it would be hard to wear it out in a lifetime.
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245 of 260 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life., July 9, 2002
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This review is from: War and Peace (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Over the 4-week period it took me to read "War and Peace", I was asked several times by friends and co-workers who saw me with the book why it was so long. At first, I really didn't have a good answer although I felt I knew why. Having finished it, I would tell them that its length is due to its being a very thorough novel covering almost every aspect of life in general. This could be said about several books obviously, but in "War and Peace", Tolstoy covers human life more thoroughly than, although maybe not as well as, any other book I've encountered.
"War and Peace" lets us follow along in the daily lives of several land-owning class characters from early 19th Century Russia. The Bolkonsky and Rostov families comprise most of these figures, but their friends and acquaintances take up nearly as much of the focus of Tolstoy's classic novel. These characters cover a wide range of personalities from the devoutly religious Maria Bolkonsky and her close and conflicted friend Natasha Rostov to the independent Pierre Bezuhov and his miserable wife Helene Kuragin. Tolstoy is able to go in and out of his creations' lives with simplicity and without exaggeration, whether its in relating the most common moments of their daily lives or the climaxes of their earthly existences. The range of emotions, feelings, and actions that Tolstoy is able to relate is easily done through his genius in setting the story in the midst of Russia's War of 1812 (the history of which he knew very well), one of the worst in its long history. It's through such a life-shattering event that people can be seen everywhere from their best to their very worst, and Tolstoy, through a compelling story line and the novel's famous length, displays the entire spectrum.
I still love Dostoevsky's writing more, mostly because of the difference in the conclusions his characters come to in their cathartic moments, but "War and Peace" gave me a much greater respect for Tolstoy than I had previously held (having read Anna Karenina, among others). I definitely recommend taking the time to read this classic.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece of Russian Literature, May 20, 2002
This review is from: War and Peace (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Oh, if I only I could read Russian! It would be worth learning that language to read this book in its original language. Tolstoy is well known for several books he wrote, but "War and Peace" is his crowning achievement. Out of all the distinguished works of Russian literature (Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, and others), "War and Peace" is the Atlas that holds all the others upon its shoulders. It beckons you to conquer its sheer size and scope, and its reputation is one of the most formidable in literary history. Surprisingly, War and Peace is not difficult, and is a cracking good tale.
An adequate summary of the book, in 1000 words, is impossible. Tolstoy places his characters in the context of the Napoleonic wars. His emphasis is on three "characters": the Bolkonsky family, the Rostov family, and Pierre Bezuhov. Along the way, dozens of other characters appear: Denisov, Dolohov, Helene, Kutuzov (my favorite), and Anatole quickly spring to mind. Even Napoleon and the Russian Tsar Alexander make appearances. All aspects of life appear, in one carefully crafted scene after another. Love, death, marriage, children, combat; all come together into a seamless whole. Saying that these people become real through Tolstoy's pen is an understatement. Despite the different time frame and different society, their struggles are our struggles. Pierre's search for meaning in life will find many sympathizers in our fast-paced world. Andrei's death scene is achingly realistic, and it you aren't touched in some way by it, you should check your pulse. Even Natasha, the hyper vivacious Rostov who grows into a responsible family matriarch, is a recognizable figure in today's world (as anyone who knows teenage girls can attest). It doesn't matter that these people are 19th century Russians; they are people acting on the stage of humanity, and are timeless. The end of the story, with everyone settled down in family life, reflects Tolstoy's own joys of family and home.
Occasionally, Tolstoy lifts the curtain and reveals the method behind the story. This method is Tolstoy's unwavering belief in the abilities of man. It is no mistake that the peasantry is represented as an ideal of man. Pierre's embrace of peasant simplicity towards life and Nicolai's careful cultivation of peasant ways are issues that Tolstoy himself dealt with in late 19th century Russia. The Populist movement in Russia in the 1890's is an extension of this idea. Tolstoy takes his faith in the peasant, and with it, posits a whole philosophy of history. His philosophy of history, in short, sees history as the result of millions of individual actions. History is not the prerogative of the elite, but the result of the actions of all humans. I see some reviews despised these sections, accusing Tolstoy of repetition and error. While the theory may be questionable at times, it does fit in with Russia's growing awareness of the peasantry and its role in the future of the country.
I had a few problems with this Penguin edition. First, printing this monster in one volume was not a good idea. Expect pins-and-needles sensations in your hands and fingers. I suggest at least two volumes, maybe three, for better and easier reading.
Second, I wonder if Rosemary Edmonds trimmed the translation a little. I find it hard to believe that Tolstoy did not provide more information on some of the characters. Bagration's death is announced but never described. We also never find out what happens to Dolohov. Prince Vasili figures prominently in the early parts of the book but barely appears in the rest of the story. Maybe Tolstoy did leave this stuff out, but I would like to know for sure. Other than these objections, the translation seems excellent.
Third, this edition needs a better introduction. I am loath to recommend this, as introductions are usually boring or useless. For "War and Peace," an introduction longer than three or four pages is needed. The introduction in the book is inadequate because it doesn't elucidate Tolstoy's philosophy and it gives only superficial clarification of characters.
You owe it to yourself to read this book. My copy set on the shelf for a long time, too. It took me about eight days to read the book. I made sure to read at least 100 pages a day. On at least one day I read 250 pages. I wanted to get it done fast so I could get the full effect. Spreading this monster out over months would not be a good idea. Highly Recommended.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars grief on ice, December 15, 2005
By 
David A. Baer (Indianapolis, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: War and Peace (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Forget everything you've heard about its obscene girth (1444 pages in my edition). Throw away the popular notion that it's an impenetrable Russian monster where every character has four different names. You may have other issues that separate you from the epic tale Tolstoy set during Napoleon's early nineteenth-century invasion of Russia. Whatever they are, get over them already and read this great story, considered by some to be the finest novel ever written.

I hate to be the one to tell you, but your eighth-grade English literature teacher was right after all: Tolstoy can write a page-turner and this is the one that will turn'em the fastest. Should you call her up and apologize?

Anna Karenina may leave you gasping in the end where War and Peace concludes with a whimper. But nothing can compare with the author's great accomplishment in War: He has seamlessly woven together a moving human tale of suffering, banal poseurs, and the restless Russian longing to achieve something noble with a vast Napoleonic panoramic of historic proportions. That little man did everything largely, including his doomed invasion-think Blitzkrieg, 1939; Hitler must not have read War and Peace-of a land whose people have long grown accustomed to absorbing the worst that history and nature can deal them and then surprising everyone but themselves by surviving.

As though this achievement were small, Tolstoy intermittently interrupts the flow of his narrative to take on the vexed problem of the relationship between experienced events and remembered history. Napoleon, it seems, is not the only ambitious man in this book. Like the diminutive French general, Tolstoy loses his battle on this front, but not without describing what's at stake in enduring, quasi-philosophical style that for a moment makes one wonder whether we ever decide anything.

Can you be an educated, understanding human being without having read this standard of Russian and-by translation-Western literature? Maybe. Probably.

But don't take the risk. Read the book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the effort, January 14, 2001
By 
doc peterson (Portland, Oregon USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: War and Peace (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
What a tale! Tolstoy's War and Peace has everything - a broad palatte of characters set to the greatest event of the 19th century - with conflict, romance, honor, courage, a beautiful (if initally maddeningly spoiled) heroine and a bookish (but likable) hero. This fabulous book is everything you've heard about it.
To many, the daunting size, scope and scale of War and Peace is a deterrent to reading it. Fear not: the story is so uttery engrossing, you will literally be unable to put the book down. Tolstoy's characters are almost real in their mannerisms, actions, thoughts and relationships - you feel almost kin to the central figures as they mature and change over time. The drama of the Napoleonic Wars, and the vidid descriptions of the life of the Russian aristocracy at its zenith also drew me into the story.
The book truly is a maserpiece of literature, and I highly recommend it. The only criticism I have is that Tolstoy, as usual, uses the book as a bully-pulpit to share his personal views, but unless you are specifically looking for them, they are negligable. (A hint: look for his themes of "fate" and "destiny" - there are others, but those are my favorites.)
There are many great works of literature - War and Peace certainly deserves to be counted among them. Take the time to read this book - you will not be disappointed.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a War of Attrition!, April 15, 2002
This review is from: War and Peace (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
War and Peace had stared at me from my bookshelf for over a year before I had the courage to begin. A present from a friend, War and Peace seemed more like a challenge than a gift: a challenge that could develop into a war of attrition between my completism and my boredom.
Nevertheless, one chilly December day, I took the plunge into nineteenth century Russian life, into the lives of a circle of aristocrats, and into the Napoleonic wars. I was immediately struck by Tolstoy's flowing prose, his humour both gentle and ascerbic, and his skill in creating and developing characters of real depth. War and Peace was a suprisingly easy read. Each short chapter containing interesting incident. It is also a book of great variety. It vividly depicts the sufferings of war, the opulence of the Russian aristocracy, and the joys and woes of family life. It touches phychological, social, political, historical, and religious themes all intertwined in a charming story.
However, its outstanding feature is its characterisation. One cannot help but feel intimately connected to the Rostov family, the well-meaning but flawed Pierre, the self-sacrificing Princess Mary, and the tragically disillusioned Prince Andrew. As I became increasingly involved in the book I looked forward with real anticipation to reading my nightly chapter. I did not want the story to end.
The only disappointing feature was Tolstoy's insistence on including chapters devoted to elaborating his historical philosophy. To my mind, his philosophy simply marred the gently unfolding story, was repetitive and boring, and seemed irrelevant. Fortunately the strength of the rest of the novel outweighs this Achilles Heel.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The force that moves nations", September 9, 2002
By 
This review is from: War and Peace (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
To put it in the simplest terms, "War and Peace" chronicles the lives of three Russian families during the Napoleonic wars of 1805 to 1820. While this premise by itself doesn't seem sufficient to justify a 1,500-page novel, Tolstoy manages to assemble a successful set of ingredients: the very character of Napoleon, inarguably one of the most charismatic and intriguing military leaders in history; his campaigns which changed Europe irrevocably; meticulously detailed battle strategies; and the human drama of war, domesticity, and romance.
When the novel begins, Napoleon's visions of a united Europe are gradually becoming a reality. Russia is the final frontier, so to speak, and while the Russians don't want to be annexed by France, they actually consider French a fashionable culture and speak the language frequently on social and formal occasions. The novel covers the two major military campaigns that concern Russia: the battle at Austerlitz in 1805, in which Napoleon's army crushes the Russians and Austrians, and Napoleon's invasion of Moscow in 1812 after the pyrrhic battle at Borodino. The last third of the novel is devoted to masterful descriptions of the panic and chaos that erupt in the streets of Moscow as many citizens flee for their lives, leaving the city ablaze; followed by the French retreat, accelerated by the pursuit of roving bands of Russian guerrillas. Basically, the novel covers the time from the peak of Napoleon's powers to the retreat that signified the beginning of his downfall.
Besides the principals Napoleon and Tsar Alexander of Russia, there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of named characters in the novel, too many for a succinct plot summary. These are primarily members of the three middle to upper class families -- the Rostovs, the Kuragins, and the Bolkonskys -- and their friends and relatives and various soldiers. Tolstoy's purpose is to show their interrelations and how wartime affects and interferes with their lives. The character who receives the most focus is Pierre Bezuhov, the illegitimate son of a count who inherits his father's fortune and marries a beautiful and wealthy Kuragin daughter. His life odyssey -- from a somewhat carefree and irresolute young man to a Freemason convert to a philanthropic landholder to a soldier to a prisoner of war -- seems to represent Tolstoy's idea of the redemption of man through the suffering of the realities of the world.
In the novel, Tolstoy does not withhold his personal opinions on Napoleon and Kutuzov, the commander-in-chief of the Russian army. He regards Napoleon as an arrogant, dishonorable, and unwarrantedly admired scoundrel, and Kutuzov as an underappreciated hero and symbol of Russian fortitude. He even gives the novel a philosophical spin, musing on the failure of diplomacy and the complexity of the causes of war. However, the narrative is mostly objective, portraying these men as they actually might have acted, and effectively separates story from propaganda.
Despite its daunting length and occasional dips into sentimentality, "War and Peace" is probably the single most important war novel of Western literature; so expansive as to contain a world of concepts, from political showboating to hypocrisy and all the absurdities that the theater of war entails; so comprehensive and definitive, it seems inconceivable for it not to have influenced every war novel that came after it, either directly or indirectly.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the Greatest Novel Ever Written, June 24, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: War and Peace (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
What can I say? Here we have this big, fat book, written by some "dead European guy", that everybody you know praises to high heaven even if they haven't read it. An immediate turn-off right there. You decide to read it regardless, if only to show those snobs that you, too, can read the classics, even if the boredom kills you. To your great surprise, you find out, when you actually read it... that it is an excellent book.
What is so good about it? In my view, "human nature". There is much more insight into human nature expressed by the characters of this novel - about what pride, love, commitment, pattiotism, and the whole variety of human emotions is *really* like - than in all the self-help psychological literature taken together.
You will find out a great deal about both yourself and others in reading this novel. Character X acts just like I would, you think. Character Y acts like my mother (or father, or best friend) would. And if you never understood what makes them tick, you will find out as you read about character Y.
Tolstoy creates characters so intricate and deep that they seem to come to life; you need to remind yourself that Pierre, Natasha, Anatoly and the rest did not actually exist, and Tolstoy did not read their minds, but invented them. Even as you read a completely unrelated scene, you find yourself asking yourself what Pierre is thinking, or Natasha feeling, or Kutuzov planning, "right now".
In short, your life will be richer for reading this book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the time spent..., October 9, 2000
By 
dick (Podunk USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: War and Peace (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
War and Peace is a complex story with revolves around the lives of three affluent families, the Bezuhov's, the Rostovs and Bolkonsky's, over a period of fifteen years. This book takes place during Russia's struggle against Napoleonic Europe, describing Russia's early defeats and then recounting how Napoleon fled Moscow in a weakened condition. The book begins with Pierre coming into his eventual title of Count Bezuhov, along with the enormous wealth accompanying it. Pierre is the pretty much the primary character in the book, and his path into his marriage of the young Helene is explored as well as his eventually affections for the young Natasha Rostov. War and Peace also explores Pierre's search for religion, his falling out with Christian beliefs and his joining of the Freemason's Order. Tolstoy's uses of description in the battles make the scenes come to life for the reader and portray a genuine picture of warfare during the Napoleonic Wars. The descriptions of Prince Andrei's exploits in battle are extraordinarily rich with details and in giving equal time to the description of the common soldier. Tolstoy's basic analysis of humanity is that instead of great leaders such as Napoleon and Czar Alexander being held responsible for the great occurrences of the time, it was instead the result of a million individual decisions from the common people participating. The reader takes away from this book an understanding of free will versus destiny and the way they shape our lives and the paths we take.
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War and Peace (Penguin Classics)
War and Peace (Penguin Classics) by Leo Tolstoy (Paperback - July 29, 1982)
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