How Ive come to know this story:
It was a book that has been on my mind and that I wanted to read for a long time, especially from reading Anna Karenina. Given to me as a gift, I was more than eager to be whisked away to the 1800’s Russian context society. Just when I thought I could not be more in awe and full of praise from reading Anna Karenina, War and Peace proves that it is a legend notwithstanding to be any less than the worthy title that leaves readers dumbstruck and with poignant insights about life.
Set in the period of early 19th century Russia, when Napoleon along with his vast empire was on his conquest to rule all of Europe, the lives of four main families (Bezukhov, Kuragin, Bolkonsky, and Rostov) intermingle and weave a powerful tale of love, family, friendship, suffering, death, and the like from each of their own unique experiences. Perspectives shift numerous times, but the narratives of Pierre Bezukhov, Natasha Rostova, Prince Andrei, and Nikolai Rostov often take on the lead roles.
Before reading, I was a little apprehensive about the number of characters appearing in the story, but Tolstoy makes sure that the reader is able to see and feel what each character is sensing, enabling the characters to etch their memories and personalities in the heart of the readers.
Apart from the charming and astoundingly real and human characters, Tolstoy is able to vividly describe the setting of war, of the freezing and starving soldiers, the positions of cannons/artillery and their booming sound, of the bloody casualties and corpses on the field, napoleon’s extravagant quarters, the ballroom where characters fall in love, the country house where princess Marya dutifully takes care of her increasingly senile father, and much more. As the foreword mentions: Nothing escapes his observations.
War and Peace will take the reader to experience a diverse range of feelings: Angry when Ellen Kuragin shows her obvious goal of marrying Pierre for his wealth, pity for the Count Rostov who despite his magnanimity faces an unexpected financial crisis, terrified when Anatol Kuragin tries to lure Natasha Rostova (already with a fiance) to escape with him and lead her to vice, and celebrate in happiness when Pierre does not die at the hands of the French while taken prisoner.
Tolstoy through these diverse temperaments, truly show the growth and personal development of each characters’ journey towards maturity and spiritual freedom. It is astounding how he manifests the most powerful and compelling lessons of life through the eyes of the different characters.
Although it is not a fast read, War and Peace is a story one must be acquainted with, and expect that it will stay in one’s heart as more than just an acquaintance.