Often called the greatest novel ever written, War and Peace is at once an epic of the Napoleonic wars, a philosophical study, and a celebration of the Russian spirit. Tolstoy's genius is clearly seen in the multitude of characters in this massive chronicle, all of them fully realized and equally memorable. Out of this complex narrative emerges a profound examination of the individual's place in the historical process, one that makes it clear why Thomas Mann praised Tolstoy for his Homeric powers and placed War and Peace in the same category as The Iliad.
War and Peace was translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude.
(P)1998 Blackstone Audiobooks
I find a reason to laugh everyday!
I downloaded a free study guide off the web and that helped me keep the characters straight in the beginning. The guide's critical analysis helped me enjoy the book even more. Be sure to let the first several hours wash over you. Just enjoy being swept along. Soon you'll remember who everyone is and be thoroughly engrossed. My dogs got extra long walks for a couple months! I was sorry it ended.
First, a few technical notes:
- The translation used in the audiobook is the one by Constance Garnett.
- The actual length of the book is about 61 hours, since the last four hours (the epilogues) are repeated twice.
The narrator (whose real name was David Case -- he passed away in 2005) seems to provoke extreme reactions: some people can't stand him, others can't get enough of him. I happen to belong to the second class, and I believe he is especially suited for this novel. However, if you find his voice as irritating as some of the other reviewers, you should probably go for another version.
And now for the book itself. In "The Brothers Karamazov", Dostoyevsky writes: "Show a Russian schoolboy a map of the stars, which he knows nothing about, and he will give you back the map next day with corrections on it." Tolstoy is the ideal to which all such schoolboys aspire, and "War and Peace" is his greatest achievement. Not only is this immense work a novel, it is a place for Tolstoy to expound his views on the causes and persons of the Napoleonic wars, on the methods of historical research, on free will and (of course) the existence of God. I can't say that I found everything convincing or even interesting -- for example, he takes a lot of pains to demonstrate the Napoleon was not a military genius but a blundering fool -- but for the sheer complexity and ambition of this work I cannot help but award it five stars.
Subscribers asked for a better narrated version of the awesome "War and Peace," and quietly Audible recently offered this superb rendition. The narration is excellent and unlike the droning Zimmerman, Frederick Davidson brings the material and the characters to life. My opinion of Audible has risen substantially, and I am thoroughly enjoying one of the greatest novels ever written.
The book is amazingly good, Frederick Davidson is an excelente narrator too. The only flaw in this audio book is the recording. A few times it looks like your're listening to a jumping vinyl record, but nothing that prevents you from having a wonderful experience.
trying to see the world with my ears
I did not expect to like W&P (in fact, I downloaded it only because I was stuck in bed for a length of time and wanted to joke that I was so bored that I read/listened to W&P), but it's become one of my favorite listens. On one level it's a riveting 19th century soap opera, with breaks for philosophical treatises rather than commercials. Then there's Tolstoy's brilliant expression of his psychological insight. What I studied at university (70s, 80s,) as the "new" historiography was actually expressed better by Tostoy than the postmoderns I read. I usually skip battle scenes to avoid violence, but skipped none of this - even the description of "wolf hunting" referred to by another reviewer was so well done that it captured me. This is one of the few audiobooks that I will subsequently buy to read/reread passages.
Unlike other reviewers, I like Frederick Davidson's narration. His style for W&P was a bit more lively than usual (more variety than his delivery of Les Miserables but not as campy as his readings of P.G. Wodehouse). For me he enhanced the listen. As others pointed out - there ARE many characters, and Davidson's style helped me sort them out. Tolstoy sometimes changes his prose style to reflect his characters mentality does he not? The variety of inflection sometimes helped point to that.
Too long gone, two wrongs right, to a brighter day and Tupelo night . . .
To be clear, this review relates to the Frederick Davidson narration of War and Peace, with an Audible release date of 01-21-05. What a horrible recording, mastering, and narration! I sincerely regret that I didn’t purchase the Neville Jason narration, instead (Audile release date: 04-27-07).
Do not be encouraged by the favorable reviews given this Davidson narration. I was. That and I was too cheap to pay two credits for volumes 1 & 2 of the Neville Jason narration.
Criticisms of narration and production:
1.This is a poor quality recording. During pauses in narration, there is a low hissing background noise – almost like the always-present noise made by my old cassette recorder as it captured the friction of tape being pulled over the recording head. This becomes extremely pronounced (and annoying) when listening with noise-cancelling headphones.
2.The digital mastering of this rendition only heightens the annoying affect of background noise. At the discretion of the editor mastering this recording, the narration is frequently augmented with post-capture extensions of narrative pause. The stark silence of these edited-in pauses contrast, sharply, against the noise-filled pauses captured during narration.
3.Points 1 & 2 would be tolerable, if only Davidson’s narration wasn’t so bad. My chief complaint with Davidson’s narration is this: he reads War and Peace as though it were Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. Not appropriate and even laughable at some parts. Also, Davidson’s character voices for women are grating and shrill. As he narrated certain women’s dialog, I had to pull the headphones from my ears to escape the pain his increased pitch and volume caused to my eardrums (seriously!). After one such insanely pitched, loud narration of a women character’s line, he then read: [character x] said, mildly. He then paused, awkwardly, as though thinking: guess I shouldn’t have hit that line so hard.
Criticisms of the story:
To be fair to the story, please understand I have aborted listening to this book after only fourteen hours (I’ve listened to 2 of 10 parts). Although I love long books, I couldn’t tolerate another 46+ hours of Davidson’s narration. So, my criticisms of content relate specifically to the first 14 hours.
1.Too many characters to get a clear idea of who is who or why the reader should care about any of them.
2.Most (as in 90%) of battle/action scenes are described in hindsight, through various characters’ point of view. Not a lot of showing, mostly telling.
In short, I regret buying the Davidson narration of this book. I wish I’d spent 2 credits on the 2 volume narration by Neville Jason, instead of wasting 1 credit and fourteen hours on this Davidson narration.
I would urge any reader interesting in tackling this classic Tolstoy novel to avoid the Davidson narration. Listen, carefully, to the Jason samples before taking the miserly path I took. Spend the 2 credits on the Jason narration and avoid the frustration of spending time with this Davidson narration.
Frederick Davidson is definitely an acquired taste. Other reviews here have noted some of the irritating qualities of his narration: fey, somewhat nasal, pseudo-posh, most sentences ending with a rising inflection, like a question. On the other hand, it should be said that his narration is always clear and energetic, and the characters are given immediately recognizable voices; in this particular case, given the length of the book, the recording is a good value for the money. Listen to the sample, and if Davidson's voice doesn't bother you, get it. (On balance, I'd have to say I prefer the Naxos recording with Neville Jason, although I have some issues with his narration as well.)
My limited experience doesn't have a class for War and Peace. Well, I'm no Ph.D, but I've done a respectable stint with the classic. I rattled off a list of reputable authors and how I like them at first, citing it sort of to demonstrate my taste; ultimately I deleted it because even all those invocations of classicism didn't express my newfound reverence for Tolstoy.
Anyway, I had anticipated reading War and Peace (eventually...), but hadn't anticipated it as an audiobook until I got two credits here as gifts. As you may have noticed, I liked it. I really liked it. I liked it so much that that, ruefully, I'm trying to write such a glowing review that people reading will think I must throw "five stars" around all the time, and they'll be wrong: Tolstoy not only snatched the Favorite Book trophy, he ran off with it for half a mile. Funny I've never *read* my favorite book, but there you go.
That's all opinion though, and for all I know an abnormal one. In fact, I'd be surprised if any significant statistic of people liked it as I do, but I'd wager on anybody loving it sooner than her hating it.
I don't think Frederick Davidson will remain my favorite narrator once I've heard more than two. I think he did very, very well with this, but I sympathize with some of the reviewers who couldn't get over some of his intonations. I got over them quite easily, you see, and even appreciate them, but they did take getting over first. Other than that, he slipped up only once in the whole work, mixing up two characters voices in one conversation. This is unabridged War and Peace: that has to count for something by itself.
Last thing, if you don't like history/philosophy/philosophy of history/lengthy tangents thereon, beware. Those things greatly added to my enjoyment, but there you go.
Indeed the Narrator is an acquired taste especially for Americans not familiar with the "proper" English accent or the Russian Language. What some have called out as an annoyance (the raising of the inflection of the voice at the end of sentences) is actually part of its genius for that is how Russians speak. Not only did the narrator tell the story, but he captured the very essence of the book. Very well done!
This is indeed a classic both the book itself and the narration. The author does an excelent job with character development. His analysis of History was very thought provoking. The Narrator does a comendable job with voice variations and expression I found I could almost see the characters as he brought them to life. Very worth the investment, if you have the huge amount of time it takes to get through it.
"I knew I'd never read it"
As I'm nearly 70, I realised I'll never have time to read War and Peace. I'm now in the middle of listening to part 3, and enchanted. I didn't know it was full of irony and humour. the reading is perfect, for me, wonderfully camp. So I go on the bus with my Freedom pass, and when people ask me what music I have on my iPod I'm delighted to tell them that it's War and Peace!
The narrator has a good voice but the characters are ruined in the most part by his rather annoying, if not incredibly grating, 'take' on the main players. Pierre sounds vacuous, Andre half dead and the women simpering and worst of all what has he done to Natasha! I do not know if I can take 50 hrs plus of this!
"Might be a great book, but terrible Narrator"
I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with the previous person's review, this might be a great book, but Frederick Davidson?s narration makes it unbearable to listen to. My recommendation to you is to buy another version.
"An epic listen !"
This is an epic to listen to - never mind read.
It took me ages to get through this one - but I am so glad I did get to the end. It takes a while to get used to the narrator, but after book 3 or 4 you do get used to him, and not having read the book, rely on his portrayal of the characters. There are so many characters that come in and go out of the story (some never to return) that you do appreciate this and whether the accents match the characters at least the narrator is consistent in his portrayal which must be hard to do over a book this long.
The chapters are in nice short listenable units (10-15 minutes), which suits me personally as I listen on the way to and from work, and I would say I only found 2 or 3 which were missing a bookmark which is quite remarkable given the amount of chapters contained in the 15 books.
If you are going to listen, its worth it, but I would put aside plenty of time.
I would certainly consider replaying it one day.
"Frederick Davidson Deserves A Higher Rating"
This is the narration to listen to if you want to be entertained. This is interesting to listen to, lively and engaging. Neville Jason has a better rating but I dont think that I could have listened to him for 60 hours because he sounds so bored. Frederick is humerous not monotonous. This was definately the reading for me. Please dont just go for the highest rating.
I am thoroughly enjoying this book and recommend to everyone that always wanted to but never had the time or the strorage space.
"An epic sweep of characters and history"
Brilliantly read by Davidson who has a great sense of pace and character.
1300+ pages made accessible.
Described as 'the greatest novel ever written' - I'm not sure I agree with that view, but certainly a very great novel.
I had read War and Peace about 40 years ago and my main memory is of lengthy ramblings by Bezukhov. Of course I have seen a number of films, the most recent being the Bondarchuk.
However the narrator of this is wonderful - never sounding too preachy. Also his various accents are very good (as far as I can judge...) Having just listened to a Dostoyevsky whose narrator seems to speak no language except Yankee, this is most appreciated!.
I h already have Frederick Davidson reading the Diary of a Nobody - this makes a perfect match. I look forward to listening to this again (I have listened to the Diary about 3 times)
So many people know about War and Peace and yet so few have read it, largely put off by its length and complexity of characters so having the book read to you is a happy compromise. It is definitely a story worth knowing and not just for the kudos of being able to say you’ve read it! BUT, Tolstoy likes making sure his reader has understood the main points he is trying to get across, so he repeats them A LOT. That and the huge attention to detail made the book quite a plod at times, retaining my concentration and not 'tuning out' was really hard at times.
The end of the book is an epilogue in which Tolstoy talks (at great length) about the philosophy of written history and the futility of trying to distinguish between fact and fiction. It is without doubt the driest part of the novel as Tolstoy makes his thoughts clear very quickly (and to an extent has already expostulated on them throughout the main story), and then repeats and labours and repeats his point over and over again. We get it Leo, history is written by the victors, let it go man!!
The narrator definitely did detract from the book. It took some time to get used to the narrator's implausibly upper-class accent and he sounded like a stereotypical 'thespian', but you've certainly got time to get used to it given the length of the book so after a while you can tune out the dodgy accents and stop laughing at his impression of the female characters and just concentrate on the text. Other readings of war and peace are available and the most notable version (and the most expensive) is by Naxos. I was very tempted to switch versions due to the narrator, but doing so would have been ridiculously expensive!
60 hours is a lot of time for anyone, but if it makes the difference between reading the story and not, it's worth the investment. War and Peace deserves, at least in part, it's accolade of being the best novel ever written so for no more reason than being able to have an opinion on whether or not you think it is as great as it's famed to be, you should listen to it.
I did learn a lot about the Napoleonic wars which I'd obviously slept through when we covered them in school so from a 'you should know this stuff' point of view, it's worth the listening time even if the genera isn't quite up your street.
The quality of the editing and the digital download is immensely disappointing. Many chapters have digital corruptions causing lots of 'jumps' between sections, sometimes it's obvious that only a word or two have been skipped, at other times it's possible that you've just jumped a large part of a chapter. Had I paid full price for this, I would definitely have been looking for my money back, but as this was my free introductory book from Audible, I could tolerate it. That said, as it was my first introduction to the quality of audible's offerings, I did question whether all books would have similar problems. So far, it appears that most of the other books I've now listened to aren't quite so bug ridden, but like I say, if you intend to pay for this, don't, use one of your credits and get it for just under £8, it's worth that but not more.
"Give it a Miss"
This is one of my favourite books but I doubt that anyone could possibly enjoy this audio book because the choice of narrator made it impossible for me to get past the first chapter.
It is a classic story destroyed by the voice reading it.
If you haven't read this book please do, it's a classic but buy it in book form because the narrator completely spoiled it. Money down the drain!
when I got to the end I started again at the beginning and heard it through a second time.
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