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
Now I know why “War and Peace” ranks so high on great books lists. Tolstoy has the unique ability to move from the high to the low seamlessly. His minute descriptions of daily life are detailed, yet lithe enough to pulse with life without plodding. His treatment of his character’s psychology is nuanced without being pretentious. And lastly, his grasp of the philosophy behind human events is stunning, though decidedly debatable.
Plot-wise, there are few novels that leave me feeling that everything that happened was inevitable without second guessing the author. This novel, though sprawling and complex, has a feeling of self-contained inevitability.
The characters seem to breathe. Tolstoy develops his main character, Pierre from a seeming oaf in a prissy drawing room, through mystical insanity to a final solidity in his final married life. Indeed, it seems that the “peace” of Pierre finds in the hearth is the proper counterpoint to the backdrop of “war.” Other characters seem intensely real as well, from the duplicitous Kuragin to the lively, pretty and impetuous Natalia. These characters strike a chord of truth and grow to encompass their experiences.
There are, of course, flaws. Karatayev seems an idealized Russian peasant. Though feeling inevitable in the novel, the Pierre- Natasha- Andre love triangle seems overly novelistic. And Tolstoy has a propensity to preach for pages at an end.
The flaws, however, are far outweighed by the perfections. “War and Peace” is worth experiencing.
As to the reading, Davidson animates his characters, giving each a separate voice. He does have a habit of pausing in the middle of sentences to take a breath, and emphasizing odd phrases. Still, I find myself immensely pleased with the book. Great literature given justice; Entertaining as well as enlightening.
I have to be honest, this has been a rough go! I really appreciate Frederick Davidson's narration - he did a wonderful unabridged reading of Brother's Karamozov that I really enjoyed, and I LOVE Tolstoy's work ... but, I have to admit, this has been a really LONG and difficult story to follow audio-wise! There are so many characters and SO many detailed accounts of everything under the sun - it's obvious authors were paid by the word in Tolstoy's era - the entire chapter dedicated to the wolf-hunt just about did me in! In my opinion, reading the novel so that it's possible to go back and forth just to keep all the characters straight would have been a better option! Or, downloading an abridged version of the work probably would have sufficed! I usually do not like abridged versions of anything, but, unless you have a major surgery that will put you in bed for months on end in the near future, I would advise you to consider an abridged version. I wish I had!
professor. like great and VERY good books, fiction and history, mainly
This is an experience everyone should have at least once in a lifetime -- and, with luck, multiple times. Listen and read simultaneously for even more exquisite hours. The reader is fabulous.
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!
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!
Love to read, and Audible has made the two-hour daily commute enjoyable!
Tolstoy's huge tome constantly moves in three spheres, a plethora of characters and their families during the Napoleanic Wars both on the 1) battlefield and the 2) home front. The third sphere is a detailed look at the history of the era and his thoughts on freedom that are interspersed through out the book.
I learned more about the Napoleanic Wars than I had known - but I have to say that the discussion at the end about philosophy and freedom of choice made me weary. Overall, there are some glorious parts as Tolstoy covers the themes of War, Peace, Love, Betrayal, Revenge and God.
I was excited about this book because I loved "Anna Karenina", but this was just too much. By the end of the 60+ hours, I was ready to move on.
I was very disappointed in the performance. It's funny how some narrators do different voices and you don't even think about it. Davidson's older women sounded like Jonathan Winters in drag - that took me a bit to get over. In addition, the sound quality was atrocious - you could hear airplanes/machinery, pages turning, etc.
I might try it again in the future, but definitely either reading it, or with a different narrator.
This is an outstanding work by Tolstoy, and an excellent performance of the reader. The reader, though now deceased, has done great work for historic works as I can attest from his reading of "The History of the World" also in Audible. Believe me, this is well worth the time and cost even for those that don't usually use audiobooks.
What can you say about a classic like this! The narrator though...So hard to understand that it makes it hard to get through this. On a book notorious for being this long, it's almost a "crime" to have someone like this narrate it. For that reason alone I would NOT suggest you get this!
The book is definitely a masterpiece, as praised already by so many critics, but the reading of it is astonishing. Frederick Davidson interpretation of the personages is extremely realistic and it helps a lot in enjoying this marvelous book.
Even if it doesn't seem to have the deepness of Dostoevski's books, this book definitely keeps a listener, who had been able to pass over the first 2 hours, hooked for the other 63.
The epilogue is a bit disappointing as it is awkward to hear lectures on "freedom" while praising a society based on slavery (serfdom), but I still give it five stars.
(Don't miss Kamarozov Brothers, interpreted by the same Frederick Davidson:)
Tolstoy's sprawling novel, set against the backdrop of Napoleon's wars against Russia at the beginning of the nineteenth century, is often called the greatest novel ever written. This is a superb rendition of that great novel. Narrator Frederick Davidson (a/k/a David Case) is a multiple award winner for his hundreds of recorded books, and he is at his brilliant best in creating the voices for Tolstoy's characters. Highly recommended.
"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!
"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 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.
"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.
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.
"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)
"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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