This book is without question the best book I have ever read. There are many reasons why, and as an opening caveat there are some world-class books I have yet to read. Apparently Dostoyevsky’s The Brother’s Karamazov is the best, but I will read that one quiet winter. For now, this book is so amazing because it transformed me, and ticks every box imagineable.
It is written so, so well. it’s poetic, it’s smart, it has incredible characters, the plot is fantastic, you learn a little french aong the way, and most of all, the descriptions of certain scenes (eg. Levin farming at home for a period) were some of the most beautiful English I have ever read, and it wasn’t even written in English! How good an author must you be if your book once translated is still world class!
It’s a little portion of history that is really, really interesting. Napoelan, 19th century, France, Russia, long winters fighting russians, war tactics, leadership, key events – if you like alittle non-fiction this is it. Don’t tell me: this book is fiction and so a real history book is more accurate. Rubbish, non-fiction is written by professors/historians that have their own bias and agendas, so all noon-fiction is fictional in that regard. My view: there is more truth in ficiton. Why? Because deeper down than the sctual story, and events is a truth that authors should get at, and war and peace does this admirably. It touches on such fundamental and profound human truths that it’s almost like a preach.
The best theme I took out of this book was “the sovereignty of God” and how history is just this huge, slow, inevitable mass moving forward and there is very little we can do to alter it, yet, within that rich tapestry we can really alter the lives of individuals within it so that sure, we can’t change world events but we can absolutely change one persons life events. That knowledge of how we can really make a difference is so vital to me as it’s something I hanker after daily: I want to have purpose and use my 9-5 to daily help people, be it in job creation, organic farming, the environment, happiness, and a myriad of other things. How does Tolstoy do this? He does it with the most convincing, elegant prose and philoshopy possible and after reading key parts of the book you know that you know that he is right. Best examples of this sovereignty theme? The obvious one: in his epilogue about this theme and the course of human history. The second (and there are others): when in battle one man just feels an urge to charge (against all logic and odds) at the enemy because of a gut feel, as if he’s born to do so, and that leads to a mini victory within a bigger battle, and changes the course of the war. Page 300 or so. I must go double check.
And plenty more! I will come back to this post in time one day and give you more advice on why to read it, but for now, read it! Especially the epilogue – which isn’t part of the book per se, but some non-fiction thoughts by Tolstoy, who had one of the greatest minds that ever lived, surely!