October 29, 2010

Literary Pick (**)

War and Peace
(Leo Tolstoy

Although clearly not a Victorian novel, I felt the setting possessed a Victorian-styled tone which was personally enjoyable to me.
The story was easier than I expected it to be, it was by no means a big mean scary hairy indecipherable novel. The worst part about it was having the stamina to finish it once I realized it was a work that failed to move me.
I read somewhere that Tolstoy wrote his books for the average man, so it doesn't surprise me that it was comprehensible.
The reason I gave this book only two stars is because although Tolstoy did a commendable job in making the novel (especially the war part) grasping, it left me bored and fatigued.
I think the characters could have offered a lot more in terms of drama and suspense. Their family issues and dilemmas lacked interest and sympathy. This really surprised me about Tolstoy's Tour de force, since his short stories are supremely gripping.
War and Peace is the story of the War of 1812 and 5 Tsarist families during that time. Some of which were men who joined the war, and others who were either elders or women related to the men who fought the war.
Honestly, none of the characters moved me as much as I thought they should have. I thought Andrey would become a better person after the death of his wife, but he seems to have died as bitterly as he lived. I felt no warmth towards him at the time of his death. None of the characters seemed ripe enough for me to care about. I sensed when Tolstoy wanted me to feel sadness and emotion, for example, when Petya, the youngest Rostov son was shot in the head during combat, but I didn't feel anything over that event either. Or like when the old man died and finally realized gratitude towards his daughter, that didn't move me either.. Then there was Nikolay Rostov, who basically married for money. There was no love or romance between them prior to the wedding. He did turn out to be a good husband, but he married Marie to save what was left of the family name and fortune, thus leaving Sonya (his childhood romance) who patiently waited for him all those years out to dry. Sonya's reaction to his union with Marie wasn't even addressed. In fact, the story left her sort of high and dry with no husband and no opinion or feelings about having waited so long for her love only to lose him to Marie (Andrey's sister).
Towards the end when Pierre left to Petersburg on business to start a revolutionary group to band against the government that were treating people poorly, Nikolay (his BIL) didn't agree with his point of views on the matter, being that he was a military officer who took an oath and....that's basically where the story ends, flat. Tolstoy then proceeds to exceedingly go into these theories and metaphors that basically just dragged his own novel through the mud. The book is no doubt a work of art as far as the cannon is concerned, but as a sit-down enjoyable piece of literature for today's society, it's extremely outdated. Tolstoy probably rolls over in his grave 8 million times a day if he saw what's become of us. In my humble opinion It's not a timeless piece.
I'm glad I read it, but I'm glad it's over.

ps. the epilogue must be read. It's part of the novel. If you didn't finish the epilogue, you didn't finish reading War and Peace.



Blogger Love and Literature said...

2 stars!!!! No I completely disagree, War and Peace is one of the very best books ever written (and not just because it sounds so impressive to say you have actually managed to read it!). I adored the following of the different characters through the invasion by Napoleon, the intertwining love stories, the family dynamics involved, the sheer beauty and elegance of the language... 2 stars, I am horrified!

Have you read Anna Karenina? For quite some time I used to argue that it was Tolstoy's best.

October 29, 2010 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

I thought I would enjoy War and Peace more than I did. I absolutely loved The Death of Ivan Ilych, and The Kreutzer Sonata is one of my favorite stories of all time. I felt that War and Peace wasn't as powerful as his other works in terms of emotion and psychology. The lives of all the people in W&P lacked complexity. I don't think any of his characters were fully developed enough for me to care about their outcome. I also had a problem getting through his metaphors and theories on the war. I think he definitely had his own agenda in writing this particular novel, and that's fine. I like Tolstoy as a person and a writer, although I realize he was a very confused and spiritually tormented individual. I own a rare book entitled "married to Tolstoy", which explains a lot of his views on his beliefs in politics and society, so I can see what he was trying to accomplish by writing it. I haven't read Anna Karenina, but I own it and I'm looking forward to reading it within the next couple of months. If you love Leo, please read the Kruetzer Sonata, it's absolutely one of the most powerful pieces of literature I have ever read in my life. I practically dog-eared every page.

October 31, 2010 at 6:05 PM  
Blogger Love and Literature said...

I can sort of see what you mean about War and Peace but I absolutely adored it! I found the character of Natasha particularly well formed (though I hate the ending she is given and the way she ends up). You will find Tolstoy's agenda even more to the front in Anna Karenina for along with Anna's story that of Levin runs alongside and through him Tolstoy is very clearly trying to express his incomplete and sometimes contradictory views, as well as giving little biographical insights. I found Levin deadly dull I must admit! Have you seen The Last Station? It is a wonderful film about Tolstoy's last days.

P.s. I have just ordered The Kreutzer Sonata on Amazon, it sounds terrific and thank you for the recommendation.

November 3, 2010 at 4:19 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Yes, I understand he drew inspiration for Natasha's character from his own wife Sonya, who was maternal and selfless, and his sister-in-law (Sonya's Sister) who was playful and tender.

I hope you enjoy the Kreutzer Sonata. Please let me know what your thoughts are when you finish it.

November 3, 2010 at 11:03 PM  
Blogger Love and Literature said...

If that is true about the inspiration for Natasha then perhaps it is why she changes so dramatically at the end and becomes like Sonya rather than her sister. Jolly interesting how the lives of authors leek into their work. I found that overwhelming with Richard Yates as well. Especially after reading his biography I could see that every character was based on or influenced by people in Yates' life.

November 4, 2010 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

I've been wanting to read Yates' bio for a while now, heard it was very interesting. Not sure if I've asked you this before, but do you have a goodreads account?

November 4, 2010 at 10:05 PM  

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