This story is hard to categorize. Is it fiction? Is it history? Is it a collection of essays on war and humanity? It has all three.
The first few hours are a lot of familial politics while the characters go from one party to another. This is an interesting look at upper class society for that period in Europe but it is not exactly action-packed.
Once our heroes get embroiled in the war the story picks up. There are even a few humorous scenes I particularly enjoyed. The latter third or so starts to drag. The ending leaves a lot unresolved, most of which is covered in the first two hours or so of the Epilogue. However, most of the Epilogue is an essay on war and I ended up skipping through it.
Apparently there are versions of the book with all the personal commentary moved to appendices. That probably cuts the book in half.
The history is fascinating but slanted. We know Napolean came from nothing and rose to rule one of one of the biggest empires in history. Tolstoy wants us to believe he was not a military genius, he just got lucky a lot. Also he makes many negative comments on Napolean's appearance and character.
What is also interesting is all that Tolstoy doesn't talk about. Peasants are barely mentioned, for example. Same with the church and clergy. I kept feeling there was a whole world out there we couldn't see because the author didn't find it interesting, or didn't think his audience would.
Considering Tolstoy was Russian, the original audience for the book were Russian aristocrats, and Tolstoy had his own strong views on religion, it's easy to see why he tells this version of history.
That aside, it's a worthy read. The narration was excellent, I gave an extra star for that. Considering you get 60 hours of audiobook for one credit, it's the best deal going.
I got this book for three reasons. First, I have always admired people who had the fortitude to read one of the longest, most acclaimed novels in history. Second, this book had a good number of five star reviews. Finally, I got this book because sixty-one hours is a lot of bang for my credit.
I wont kid you, I was kicking myself for about the first eight hours. The first eight hours is introducing various characters as they sit around gossiping in parlor rooms in Russia. It was so boring that only my tenacity to get my moneys worth, and a desperate hope that it would get better kept me going.
I was paid off by about forty-five hours of interesting story. The use of language is excellent. The characters are for the most part well developed (Especially Pierre). The story is very engaging. It needs to be because at the beginning of each new section Tolstoy makes you go through between 15 minutes and an hour of his rambling philosophical views. It’s like he wanted to expound philosophy and had to wrap it in a novel so people would read it. (This is because is not good enough to stand on it’s own(It has a lot of holes).) Even I as an ex-philosophy major couldn’t stand the drivel.
I would have given this book four stars, except Tolstoy really ticked me off when toward the end of the book he takes a two hour aside from the story to discuss the questions, “What is power?, and “Is there really any free will?”, and forgets to bring closure to the tale. There is no, “Happily or sadly ever after”. The reader is left hanging with no finality in any degree.
So there you have my opinion. It was O.K. but it was not all that. It was definitely not the best book I have ever read, and I very much disagree with the claim that it is the best book ever written.
This book should be obligatory reading for all leaders that are thinking of starting a war. Tolstoy dissects, with vivid detail, the consequences of arrogance and lack of understanding that so often cause the deaths of thousands of men.
The characters are very real, and, because the book is so long, become almost acquaintances.
I strongly recommend this audiobook. The reader is great, and really keeps you wanting to come back for more.
Avid reader of history, biography, and true crime.
I'm afraid I can't review the entirety of War and Peace because I simply can't get into it. I've tried starting at the beginning several times, I've started different chapters, but nowhere does it interest me in the slightest - not the characters, the setting, or the plot (which I confess my dipping in and out hasn't allowed me to grasp). I bought this tome because I thought of it as a book one 'ought' to read, and if it's one of the best known books of all time, it must at least be readable. For me it is not.
Frederick Davidson's very plummy British accent took me time to warm to, but once I did I felt a genuine appreciation for his narrative skill. He engages the listener with different and distinctive character voices but succeeds in never compromising the gravitas of the work. Don't hesitate to use a credit on this great novel, very well told.
I really wanted to read this and still intend on doing so but this narrator was not someone I could listen to for 61 hours! His pacing and insistence on making EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER sound like a lazy Englishman slurring his speech and swishing a glass of branding around whilst reclining on a couch was really going to get on my nerves. He really doesn't have a grasp on how to narrate something that is so quintessentially Russian.
No thank you! See above!
As I said, I intend on reading it- just not listening to this guy! I have great respect for Tolstoy!
Master Certified Coach
I have to answer this based on having read the book years ago, for I could not listen for more than 30 minutes to this narrator. I loved the story. The scope. The characters. The drama.
This narrator speaks in an unbearable, unbroken monotone. Any variation in pitch and emphasis would have improved the performance.
I'm returning this book and one other by the same narrator. He may work for some, but not for me.
Tolstoy uses the setting of the Napoleonic wars in Russia as the platform for a story heavy on philosophy, the philosophy of history and military history. Pierre is the heart and soul of the story and the sections about him are truly wonderful, such as the chapters covering his introduction to and induction into Russian freemasonry. Other characters are less well-developed, especially the female protagonist, Natasha, who tends to come across as silly and frivolous throughout most of the book. She is less of a character than a stand-in for what Tolstoy considers a sort of vital life-force, in contrast to the more thoughtful and broodingly introspective men around her. In fact, women in general tend to be fairly one-dimensional in this work.
Davidson's narration is quite dry and his foreign accents, especially French, and his rendition of women leave much to be desired, making this very long book seem even longer. This is one of those books I enjoyed more in print since that format allowed me to skim through the long sections on military strategy and philosophy of history and concentrate on the central story.
This book is read well and is rightly a classic of all time. It conveys the "feel" of the traditional Russia. This is well worth the substantial time investment and puny financial investment!
I bought this more than a 3 years ago and have not been able to complete the story because of the narrator effeminate accent... Arrrghhh!