The hardest thing about listening to War and Peace was keeping all the characters straight. I used Spark Notes, and also read along with the audio book. The ebook is readily available for free. I even kept notes at first as to who belonged to what family, which I referred to often. I did not follow all of the goings on of the war, but I got enough of it to understand its meaning as it relates to the story. It took me about half to two-thirds of the way through the story before I got totally sucked into it. There are about four stories going on at one time, and Tolstoy jumps from one to the other seemingly at will.
I came to care about, love or hate many of the characters, but it took a while. What I did come to love were the Russian people of the early 19th century as a whole. One of my favorite parts of the book occurs at the end of the first epilogue (who writes more than one epilogue???). Tolstoy writes a caricature of the Napoleonic Wars. It is so funny, and yet it puts the whole thing into great historical context, which at that point I really needed. I could have lived without the second epilogue. Although it is well written, and uses a great metaphor, it had absolutely nothing to do with the story.
As far as Tolstoy as a writer, I have to give him a ???5???. He is a fabulous writer, and I found myself listening to long philosophical musings just because I loved the sound of the prose. He is obviously incredibly intelligent, and a very deep thinker.
The narrator, Neville Jason, ranks up there with the best of the best. He is outstanding. I give him a ???5??? as well.
The story itself: From the stand point of keeping my interest, continuity and action, I give it a ???4???. From the standpoint of the quality of the writing, it has to be a ???5???. From the standpoint of what I learned from the story, or in other words, did it have an impact on my life? I would definitely have to give it a ???5??? as well. So averaging everything out, the book gets a ???5???.
I ended up loving this book. Yes, it is long, and has a lot of stuff in it that could be cut out, but omitting anything would lessen the book. I am very happy that I listened to the entire 61 hours and 44 minutes. I am pretty sure I have changed, and have grown as a person as a result of this book. Now I'm going to go listen to something light and cheerful!
BTW, Neville Jason is an amazing narrator! My standard for judging a good narrator is "could I listen to him read the phone book and enjoy it?" Yes, I could, Neville. Thank you.
I love this book. It has quite a bit of darkness in it, but it is still such a great story of love and revenge. I really don't personally believe in revenge, but I think all of us harbor a secret desire to get even with people who have wronged us. In Dante's case, he is well justified in seeking revenge, and he goes about it in a very calculating way. He does so much good along the way, however, to those deserving of it. Yes, he plays God to some extent, but justifies that by the fact that he prays about what he should do, and because ways are opened up for him to accomplish what he wants,he believes he has God's blessing.
I read this book years ago, and loved it then. It was delightful to get to read it again. Although I rarely reread fiction, I am sure this will not be the last time for this book.
A word about Andrew Timothy, narrator: No, he is not the best narrator I have ever listened to, but neither is he the worst - far from it. I loved listening to him, in spite of his occasional correction of a word, and a little rustling of pages. Big deal! He is a fabulous reader, and like many other reviewers, I felt like my kindly old (and very articulate and intelligent) grandfather was reading it to me. I would take him any day over many other narrators who never make a mistake and never get caught turning a page.