"That a novel 'full of clear, honest reflection on the pain of living' is also 'one of the most life-affirming works of fiction' becomes, for Andrew D. Kaufman, a contradiction worth exploring. He does so in this alluring study with a ferocity and lightness of touch that Tolstoy himself would have admired. By exploring a handful of key themes in War and Peace, Kaufman brings us back to the shimmering pages of a classic novel, and his book is nothing less than inspiring." (Jay Parini, author of The Last Station )
“If you come from a family, then you'll understand [War and Peace’s] deepest meaning, thanks to Mr. Kaufman's erudition and scholarship.” (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
"No other novel in world literature possesses the intimidating allure of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It is the very Everest of fiction, and most readers need a sherpa. Andrew Kaufman has not only produced a perfect guide to the setting, characters, history, and background of this epic work, all skillfully interwoven with events in Tolstoy’s life; he has done so with zest and personality." (Dana Gioia, former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and internationally acclaimed poet )
“[Kaufman’s] argument is mischievously compelling: Why waste money on motivational tapes and seminars when this fictional account of the Napoleonic Wars provides greater salve for the soul?....An attaboy to Kaufman for reminding us of its relevance to our anxious century.” (The Miami Herald)
"Andrew Kaufman has written the book on War and Peace for our time. In his colloquial and personal style he explores, as his subtitle puts it, Tolstoyan Wisdom For Troubled Times, recovering this wisdom not only from Tolstoy’s diaries, letters, and essays, but, more importantly yet, the text of the novel itself. This is quite simply the most engaging and thought-provoking book on Tolstoy I have ever read." (Richard Gustafson, Columbia University, author of Leo Tolstoy: Resident and Stranger )
“Once you have taken Kaufman’s well—informed yet unintimidating tour of the Russian classic, it will very likely move up to the top of your literary bucket list. Kaufman’s mission is to share the wonder and power of this ageless novel he so clearly reveres and to make the case for its continuing relevance in the 21st century. He succeeds admirably…. Even without ever having cracked the spine of the novel itself, readers will feel as if they have, coming to know its characters and their dreams, failures and destinies. [Kaufman] brings them to life with such affection that even the most flawed among them becomes someone we wish to know better." (Bookpage)
"Andrew Kaufman has found a refreshingly informal way of reading (and re-reading) War and Peace, weaving the lives of the novel’s characters together with Tolstoy’s life and his own. By breaking all the critical rules, he manages to enter into the ever shifting and growing reality that Tolstoy sought to portray, producing an excellent ‘companion’ for new readers of the novel." (Richard Pevear, best-selling, award-winning translator (with Larissa Volokhonsky) of War and Peace and Anna Karenina )
“Kaufman looks to the novel for guidance, ‘not so much as a set of answers to life’s every challenge as an attitude toward living.’ [He] makes Tolstoy’s characters lively and palpable… [and Kaufman’s] enticing invitation may well persuade readers to finally dive into one of the world’s most acclaimed—and daunting—novels.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“A serious, thoughtful inquiry into how literature can affect and change people's lives… Do give this fine, perceptive book a chance; it'll leave you more than ready to tackle Tolstoy's triumphant work.” (Shelf Awareness)
"This lively appreciation of one of the most intimidating and massive novels ever written should persuade many hesitant readers to try scaling the heights of War and Peace sooner rather than later." (Publishers Weekly)
"With literary insight and stylistic flair, Andrew D. Kaufman shows why War and Peace is not just a monumental work of fiction but also a kind of user’s manual for a world out of joint. Read Tolstoy, of course, but then read Kaufman to uncover the hidden truths that are sometimes lost amid the cannonades and drawing-room conversations." (Charles King, author of Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams )
"Andrew Kaufman has done a remarkable job of combining personal interest and experience, impressive writing skill, and a remarkably wise sense of humor, with the irresistible compulsion to read Tolstoy’s presentation of life itself. Many critics have had their go at this novel–few of them have displayed the personal attractiveness possessed by this lover of Tolstoyan vision." (Irwin Weil, Northwestern University )
“Looking across the ocean, it seems that Andrew Kaufman’s book represents America’s best new understanding of Tolstoy’s universal truths.” (Pytor Palievsky, former Deputy Director of the Gorky Institute of World Literature, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow )
"[Give War and Peace a Chance] records Kaufman’s ongoing personal and professional quest for authenticity that has unfolded through many years of reading and rereading Tolstoy’s classic, alone and with others. Alternatively chatty and probing, Kaufman offers anecdotes from his experiences and those of his students and fellow readers that parallel those of Tolstoy and his characters, reasserting its relevance in our time. This is a substantial, informative, authoritative and yet highly personal book that will impress scholars and general readers alike. Kaufman, your friend, fellow traveler, and confidant, is a great listener, an in-the-know gossip, and a virtuoso storyteller. Join him in conversation with other readers about things that matter: love, family, courage, death, perseverance, truth. Get to know them all: author, critics, characters; get to know yourself. Humorous, smart, human, pitch-perfect, alternatively hilarious and profound, this is a great ‘great book’ book. Give Give War and Peace a Chance a chance." (Carol Apollonio, Duke University, author of Dostoevsky’s Secrets: Reading Against the Grain )
“I absolutely love GiveWar and Peace a Chance. There are books I love reading. And thereare books I wish I could have written. Kaufman’s book is both. I thank him forbringing Tolstoy to life in a way that honors him and the reader.” (Todd Breyfogle, Director of Seminars for the Aspen Institute )
From the Inside Flap
A mirror of our times.
Beyond a rousing, unforgettable story, says Russian literature scholar Andrew D. Kaufman, Tolstoy's masterpiece can offer modern readers an urgent moral compass and a celebration of the deep joy of living. In Give War and Peace a Chance, his entertaining, thought-provoking, and accessible argument for why War and Peace is more relevant to readers now than ever, Kaufman argues compellingly that War and Peace is many things. It is a love story, a family saga, a war epic. But at its core it is a novel about human beings attempting to create a meaningful life for themselves in a country torn apart by war, social change, political intrigue, and spiritual confusion. Give War and Peace a Chance takes readers on a journey through War and Peace that reframes their very understanding of what it means to live through troubled times, and survive them.
Touching on a broad range of topics, from courage to romance, from parenting to death, Kaufman demonstrates how Tolstoy's wisdom can help us live fuller and more meaningful lives. An ideal companion to War and Peace, yet equally enjoyable to those who have never read a word of Tolstoy, Give War and Peace a Chance renders this greatest of masterpieces more approachable, relevant, and fun.