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on February 23, 2017
I have, at various times, tried to read four different editions of War & Peace (Penguin, Signet, Barnes & Noble, and now this) and by far, this is the best edition I've seen. This edition is everything I was looking for in a copy of War & Peace and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

It is highly readable. Translating texts is always difficult, because you want to retain the feel of reading a Nineteenth century work but use language that makes the work accessible. Personally, I found some editions (Barnes & Noble, Penguin) to be hard to read and comprehend, especially when you first begin. This edition is a relative breeze to read.

It has French translations. When reading the Signet edition, I found myself using google translate to understand sentences or phrases left in the book in French. Other editions translated most of the French but left phrases here and there untranslated and in the text, without footnotes. I understand in the original, Tolstoy wrote entire passages in French but provided translations in the foot notes. This edition follows that pattern. There are entire passages in French, but they are translated in the footnotes on the page.

It has historical end-notes and an index. I am not unfamiliar with European and Russian history, but I, like most people, have no more knowledge than what I learned in my freshman world history class. This work has end notes in the text to provide context. Though it slows me down, I find myself flipping to the back of the book and reading every end note when the text provides it. I cannot stress enough how helpful this has been. The index is likewise helpful. It is an alphabetical list and short biography of the historical characters and places mentioned in War and Peace.

It includes a short chapter summary. At the very end of the book, there is a chapter summary for a collection of chapters sharing a theme or describing the same event. The summary is no more than a sentence long and provides a nice refresher when you are trying to recall what happened when.


Compared to editions that translate all the French, reading in the footnotes can be burdensome. I personally don't mind, but I can see how that might trip some people up.

If you are looking for a copy of War and Peace, this is the one to get. Trust me.
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on May 12, 2016
Approaching War and Peace feels like a monumental task. Sitting down and reading it is not for the faint of heart. The story is engrossing and will consume you. It took me about four weeks to finish it because it's not the kind of book that one can read straight through. One puts it down to think about it, coming back after one has digested what has one read.

Set against the backdrop of Napoleonic Europe, the story follows three main Russian families as they navigate the early years of the nineteenth century. Plot? Is there one? Perhaps. Perhaps not. The background history of the Napoleon Wars are what set in motion a lot of the action, especially for the male protagonists who fight in the wars. For the females it seems that love and falling in love and out of love and the passage to adulthood are what drives their stories. Our main protagonist is Pierre Bezukhov, a mirror for Tolstoy himself. The ideas Bezukhov spouts are usually the ideas Tolstoy believes in and wants you to believe in too. Pierre is the illegitimate son of a rich aristocrat.

The other families are the Bolkonskys and the Rostovs. The Bolkonskys are right and proper with an autocratic father from one of the lower levels of Hell. The Rostovs are more homely and not so rich but full of love. There are also a couple of other families that play parts such as the Kuragins, who play the part of the somewhat "evil" characters. The cast of characters is indeed large as many say. But honestly the main characters that the book follows number about 5 to 10. So it's manageable. Aside from Pierre Bezukhov, there is Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, Princess Marya Bolkonskaya, Countess Natalya Rostova, Count Nicholas Rostov, and Helene Kuragina. The rest of the characters are secondary and even Helene is not that important.

The book itself is hard to describe. Is it a novel? Tolstoy didn't think so. Is it history? Though there are huge stretches on the philosophy of history, this is not a history book. Nor is it philosophy. At leas not necessarily good philosophy. It is something unique. Perhaps that is why War and Peace has attained the status of classic. It is a book that attempts to give one a complete (at least complete aristocratic) view of Russian society between the years 1805 and 1812. Perhaps the German word, 'Gesamtkunstwerk' - total work of art - should be applied to literature.

I read the eBook Pevear-Volokhonsky transalation that goes for $12.99. It was a good translation that captured the spirit of the times. The notes and translations of the French were all hyperlinked which made things easy enough to read and follow. Though I would rather have seen the notes on the bottom of each page rather than the end of each book. Having finished War and Peace, I am glad that I read it. Though I am still not quite certain if it should be regarded as such as a classic. Is it truly that great? I'm still not sure.
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on January 12, 2018
AMAZON KINDLE DESCRIPTIONS SUCK. They link information in the descriptions that are for one book but then when you download it is for a different book! In the descriptions I thought I was ordering a more modern translation of War and Peace by Briggs. Yet after purchase and download it turns out to be the older translation by Maude which is is available FOR FREE on the GUTENBERG SITE. Especially for classic foreign language books the translation version is critical. ONCE AGAIN AMAZON MASHES UP THEIR USER REVIEWS FOR ALL DIFFERENT VERSIONS. I spent quite a bit of time trying to make sure to get the Briggs translation BUT IT WAS ALL WASTED TIME!!!
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on March 21, 2017
The two stars are not about the book but Amazon's mislabeling of the translation.This Kindle edition is now the Anthony Briggs, not the Rosemary Edmonds translation. I have the paperback version of the Anthony Briggs translation and it matches up perfectly with this kindle edition. I really wish Amazon would do a better job of labeling who translates their Kindle editions, different translations can make all the difference in your enjoyment of the book.
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on April 24, 2017
Really enjoyed it.
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on March 30, 2017
Thank you; an epic!
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on March 18, 2016
I decided to purchase Pevear and Volokhonsky translation because of the great reviews which convinced me I have to read this classic in the new translation that many claim to be a definitive translation of War and Peace. It sat on the bookshelf for several months. But when I suddenly found time to read it ... wow it is in French? I have read Hadji Murad before and know that Tolstoy sometimes writes in french, which is the language Russian Aristocrats used to speak. But the amount of le français in War &Peace just blown me away; about 5% of this book is written in French, and that is a lot of French. Previous English translations usually translated everything into English, thus causing a great loss of nuances of Tolstoy's original expression. Maintaining original French passages is a better approach because it gives readers an access to Tolstoy's original writing. As I was in the mood of polishing my French, I plowed through the book with great interest. All French (and German) passages are given complete translation at the bottom of the page, so it's easy to guess and understand what you don't know. War & Peace is a great classic and it needs no introduction or affirmation from me. For me, this translation gives you a sense how Russian aristocrats relied on french to communicate just as much, if not more than, as their own language. French language also gives reader the awareness of the European history on which W&P is based: that is how the French language, the French Revolution and its ideas were affecting every part of the Russian Empire and the minds of the book's main characters. A translation that is missing it's french is a translation that misses Tolstoy. Besides, I've never seen a novel that serves so well as a French reader. One gets the double pleasure of reading a great Russian classic and practicing one's french. It's such a strange combination.
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on August 29, 2016
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on November 6, 2016
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on October 23, 2017
I have read several versions of War and Peace. If the Maude translation were half as good as it is, it would be the TWO best versions I had ever read of this masterpiece.

Published in 1869, this great saga works on many levels. It is an intimate snapshot of the cultured classes of Tsarist Russia around the time of Napoleon's ill-fated invasion: glittering, provincial, backbiting and sublime all at the same time. It is a study of the fog of war, the clash of ambition, the lust for promotion, and the petty, toxic vanity of those who prefer to be in charge of a loss than a mere part of a victory. It is a contemplation on the "great man" and the "great events" theories of history. (Spoiler alert: it rejects both as inadequate and pretentious). It is a meditation on religion, the meaning of life, on what constitutes real happiness. All of this is accomplished through the day-to-day interactions of ordinary people - with Napoleon, the Tsar, and General Kutuzov all painted in the same ordinary terms.

There are moments of staggering sagacity. In an early scene, the primary character, Pierre Bezukhov, unintentionally insults a devout religious pilgrim whose beliefs he finds silly. When she understands the insult and tearfully goes to take her leave, Pierre (now deeply mortified) apologizes with such heart-felt penitence that she forgives him the offense. Would that such magnanimous solicitude for another, even when we disagree with him, would make a comeback.

Just before Napoleon enters Moscow to take it captive, the glitterati of the military and the Imperial Court are busy jockeying for position, maliciously attacking and slandering each other, ever looking for an opportunity to make others the ledge upon which their ambitions might climb. It is petty, grasping and pathetic - and it is all wiped away in a moment as the French Emperor shows how grubby their little ambitions are in the face of his concentrated force. But once he has taken the city, Napoleon has nowhere to go and no subjects to cheer him, as Moscow's inhabitants have fled and set fire to the city. The "liberator" of Moscow finally realizes he has gone a bridge too far, removed from his supply lines, and with a Russian winter coming on, no less. His hubris and success have undone him - and the folksies of Moscow did NOT play to script by welcoming him as their liberator. Thus the wages of stratagems turned obsessions.

When Moscow was captured, Pierre was taken prisoner by the French. A staggeringly wealthy, titled man, he lived in complete poverty and fear for several months. After the French retreated and he escaped, considering his sufferings, Pierre asked himself, "Would you rather be what you were before you were taken prisoner...we imagine that when we are thrown out of our familiar rut all is lost, but that is only when something new and good can begin." Pierre's captivity completed him. Already a good man, it forged something of greatness in his large heart.

The Maude translation keeps the substantial passages written in French from the original (while helpfully offering translations in footnotes). I read French, so it was not jarring - and actually a little pleasing - to me. It may be disruptive for those who have to constantly go to the footnotes to see what was said. But Tolstoy actually used this as a literary device. Those things written in French were to be shown as artificial and contrived, while those written in Russian to be earthy and authentic. Even if you don't read French, knowing what he intended with this device will help you see the author's point of view more clearly.

In the last third of the book, Tolstoy embarks on several extended passages of pure political philosophy. Quite bluntly, he is a far more astute philosopher in his narrative than in his actual political opining. If this is your first read of the book, you will probably want to trudge through these muddled passages. I skip them over now, for they add nothing to the narrative and, I think, badly interrupt its flow. He does the same thing in Anna Karenina. It is annoying tic, but it is the tic of a genuine literary genius.

When you start the novel, you may well think, "How am I ever going to get through 1,300 pages of this?" By the time you finish, you have come to so love the community of characters you wish you could remain with them for another 1,300 pages.

All of Tolstoy's characters are deeply complex and authentic. The best have significant flaws, the worst, unexpected virtues.
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