War & Peace

For anyone who has read War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy, what did you think of it? Also, I’d like to know if it’s difficult to read (I’m 16 but have read a huge number of books) and if you recommend it.


I found it fascinating and could hardly put it down. I re-read it about every five to seven years, just to remind myself of what epic means.

Still, not quite as much a favourite as Moby Dick, Jude the Obscure, Gravity’s Rainbow or Anna Karenina.

It’s wonderful, and not difficult, with a couple of caveats. Firstly, the many names can be tricky to keep track of if you aren’t familiar with Russian naming conventions - diminutives and patronymics etc - but any good edition will have this handled in an appendix for reference. Secondly, there are quite a few places where Tolstoy goes off on his pet theory about the impact individuals have on history - you’ll recognise these chapters when you get to them - these are worth reading, but can be skipped the first time through if you just want to get back to the huge epicness of the story.

It’s a fantastic ride - a must read.

If you’re looking for other “large epic difficult to read” books, you might also then enjoy “Shogun” it’s an interesting tale set in Japan, and it’s quite good in parts, but then there are also some really dry portions where they get into the whole Japanese Daimyo culture of feudal lords and such, but I have a generally positive view of that book.

Just some food for thought.

I was only able to read the first half, I intend on finishing it one day (though I’ll probably start over). I really liked it but suggest a study guide or Spark Notes to go along with it to keep the characters straight, the Russians use an unusual naming system.

I read it when I was 20(10 years ago). I thought it was OK, but preferred Les Miserables and Brothers Karamazov over it.

It wasn’t too hard to follow, even if you do not know the history surrounding it.

I think it would be better and mean more to a Russian reading it in Russian.

I liked it. I started reading it when I was 19, during the summer. I saw that there was a college course on it, so I signed up, figuring I might as well get academic credit for it. Great book, with lots going on. I liked Tolstoy’s excursions into the theory of history – he likens it to calculus, and you have to “integrate the differentials (people)” to understand all that isgoing on. He goes out of his way to try to prove that no one – not even Napoleon – influences history. I think he’s wrong, there, but his efforts to provide alternate explanations for Napoleon’s actions (all of Napoleon’s scenes are actual reported events) are cute.

I got a good chunk of the way through but gave up because I realized I was coming across characters that had been introduced at the beginning of the novel, but it was so long ago that I couldn’t remember anything about them.

If you’re interested in Russian literature, I found Dostoevsky’s *Crime and Punishment *to be wonderful.

I read it for the first time when I was about 16. It’s a beautiful book, but it is long and difficult to get through (and I LIKE long and difficult books.)

Tolstoy in general is a beautiful writer. War and Peace may be his best known, but I love his short stories, and “Anna Karenina” is like all the very best parts of “War and Peace” IMO.

I highly recommend reading it.

By the way, the concluding essay about history and what drives history is a very cool essay.

Just pay attention to the translation I read an loved it 20 years ago.
Re-read it last year, and the translation got in the way.
You might want to search for past threads in which translators were discussed.

I also recommend Anna K. Not at all a fan of Dostoevsky. C&P should probably be read simply as it is relevant to so much else, but I consider the Brothers unreadable. Yeah, I know many folk disagree…