War and Peace Review
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Despite being printed in impressively small text, War and Peace is still well over fourteen hundred pages long. You might be wondering what would possess a person to actually attempt to read this nearly two-hundred-year-old leviathan (especially given the fact that carrying the book anywhere in public is akin to walking around with a five-pound bag of potatoes in one’s knapsack), considering that completing the book is, in literary terms, something like climbing Mount Everest. For me, the answer was simple, this is the book that innumerable literary persons—critics, readers, and even other writers—have dubbed the greatest novel of all time. (If you’ve heard otherwise, you are probable mistaking reviews for James Joyce’s Ulysses as the greatest novel ever written in the English language.)

War and Peace is an incredible look into the nature of human society and life itself. But despite being a very antiquated novel, it’s still capable of relating to the modern reader in a way that many of the novels of today cannot. In short, this book contains every facet of human emotion, every possible fork in life’s path, and every major decisive moment in life.

The basic plot, (if indeed a singular plot can even be distinguished) of the novel is this: Europe is in a state of constant change due to wars, revolts, and the personal agenda of a man named Napoleon Bonaparte. Russia is no longer exception to this shifting of geography and history, and it begins to get involved in conflict with the French in 1805. Several years of peace follow. Then in 1812, after becoming upset over Russia’s refusal to adhere to a trade embargo placed by France over most of Europe on English goods, Napoleon stations his troops beyond the Russian border, all but forcing Russia’s Emperor, Alexander, to deliver an ultimatum to Napoleon. Alexander insists that not one French soldier remain on the Russian side of the border and that, barring the immediate removal of all French troops from Russian soil, war will become inevitable. Napoleon refuses to remove his troops, and consequently France’s invasion of Russia begins.

However, as is implied above, the novel does not have a singular plot—for, interwoven throughout these political and military periods, is the real plot. War and Peace chronicles the lives of five of Russia’s most privileged families during a turbulent period in Russian history. It is Tolstoy’s characters that push this novel into the highest esteem of literature, and it’s through his characters that the various themes of War and Peace are delivered. These themes are centred around duality: war and peace, love and hate, life and death, hope and acceptance, wealth and poverty, religion and politics, and so on until everything (yes, everything) that it means to be alive is covered. The characters are so three-dimensional and lifelike that it’s hard to identify even one of principle, secondary, or even momentary importance that the reader can not relate to in some way.

This book requires a vigilant attention span and a great donation of time. But, like with any great epic story, once you’re immersed in the fabric of this world-famous tale, you’ll find yourself feeling an insatiable need for more of Tolstoy's brilliant human-condition commentary. And yes, there will be times when you’ll be tempted to quit reading as you drool over the latest flashy cover in the bookstore window, but persevere, and you’ll know an accomplishment that few people today can boast. You will have read the best that the world has ever had to offer.

This book is definitely worth reading because it offers the reader far more than just a simple, plotted-out, historical story. What it offers throughout is the essence of life itself.

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