At long last, I finished reading War and Peace! All 1386 pages. It's Book #56 of the year.
I both loved and hated this book. The parts about the characters were wonderful. Tolstoy writes great party scenes and great domestic scenes and great battle scenes. His descriptions and dialogue are vivid. His characters are completely believable and complex (reportedly he based them on his friends and relatives).
Unfortunately, Tolstoy fills hundreds of pages with his musings - mostly about history. Why Napoleon and other leaders aren't as important to events as they think they are, or as most historians think they are. How free will works. What an idiot Napoleon is. Why the Russians are superior to all other peoples. Why Russian peasants are superior to all other Russians.
Then there will be another couple of hundred pages of gripping narrative.
And then back to more about Napoleon and free will and history and the Russians.
It's not that what he writes in this vein isn't interesting in itself, but it slows down the story to a halt, and honestly by the third time I read his theory of history, I wasn't at all interested any more.
When I finished the book, I started reading A.N. Wilson's introductory essay to the Modern Library edition, and while I haven't finished it yet, I have learned that Tolstoy's wife copied out the whole book no less than seven times in longhand. A moment of silence for her, my friends. This woman was a true saint. (She also bore thirteen children.)
I'm glad I read this book, but I don't think I will be rereading it any time soon. In its own way, though, it is an unforgettable novel. Marya, her father, Pierre, Natasha, and poor little Petya will stick with me.
5 hours ago