Taking longer than I anticipated, I finished Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace last night. I have to admit that I feel very relieved to have finally finished it. The conflict between the temptation to give up and the pressure to keep going became intense toward the end. The following from page 1217 seemed appropriate to my situation (as well as the situations faced by the characters in the novel):
To be able to walk hundreds of miles a man must believe that something good awaits him at the end of those hundreds of miles. He needs the prospect of a promised land to give him the strength to keep on.
I guess my “promised land” is the accomplishment of a goal. I would recommend the novel to anyone with the caveat that they plan on taking their time. While the novel is worthy of the time I spent reading, it probably won’t make it to my All-Time Favorites list. The five principal characters of the story, Pierre Bezuhov, Nicholas Rostov, Natasha Rostov, Andrei Bolkonsky and Maria Bolkonsky, all fascinated me from time to time; however, I didn’t find myself attached to any of them. Pierre Bezuhov’s quest for meaning in life and the triumphs and disappointments that he encounters along the way probably came closest to resonating with me.
I found it interesting that the novel ended much the way it began – with Russian aristocracy discussing life and politics with all of the disagreements that go along with that. The only difference is that the adults at the end were the kids at the beginning.
Throughout the novel, Tolstoy throws in his own scholarly thoughts regarding history, philosophy, religion and the human condition in general. In spite of the temptation to skip these parts and get back to the story, I found that they tied in well with the fictional narrative. Tolstoy’s ability to jump back and forth between these two different writing styles without making it jarring stands as a testament to his genius and the status of War and Peace as a classic.
Here are my other posts on this novel: