War and Peace is one of the greatest monuments in world literature. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, it examines the relationship between the individual and the relentless march of history. Here are the universal themes of love and hate, ambition and despair, youth and age, expressed with a swirling vitality which makes the book as accessible today as it was when it was first published in 1869.
In addition it is, famously, one of the longest books in Western literature and therefore a remarkable challenge for any reader. Neville Jason read the abridged version of War and Peace and proved his marathon powers with his outstanding performance of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. These make him the ideal narrator to essay Tolstoy's epic.
War and Peace was translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude.
© and (P) Naxos Rights International
"War and Peace presents us with a complete picture of human life; a complete picture of the Russia of those days; a complete historic picture of the struggle of nations; and a complete picture of the things in which men set their happiness and greatness, their sorrow and their shame." (A.V. Knowles, Tolstoy: The Critical Heritage)
"There remains the greatest of all novelists - for what else can we call the author of War and Peace?" (Virginia Woolf)
War and Peace is a book that I put off reading for quite a long time. I have to say that I regret not having read it earlier in life, as the characters are so very true to life, and the story, while specific to its time, has themes that are universal and timeless. As one familiar with the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian, I found Tolstoy's Russia of the same time period to be startlingly familiar in many ways, and quickly became engrossed in the story.
Listening to it in Audio book format only adds to the pleasure, as Neville Jason narrates each scene with superb timing, and is able to pitch his voice and change his tempo to put real "character" behind each character. It seems impossible, but he's able to portray both young and old women in a variety of circumstances in such a way that you ~never~ feel he's striking a false not, or tempt you to laugh at the voices he summons for them.
The basic character of humanity apparently does not change. Tolstoy's asides (Such as "Like all young men, he was determined to make his opinion known.") are as true today as when he wrote them. The nature and actions of the many people within the book are never dull, sometimes moving, often very funny, and always authentic.
I've purchased a printed version of War and Peace which I will look forward to re-reading from time to time, and may keep a few audio chapters handy for "impulse listening" in the future.
By all means, take a listen - War and Peace's reputation is wholly deserved.
I have loved W&P since college--and that's a long time ago. I've read it, I suppose, twenty times. But never have I enjoyed it quite so much as in this splendid reading. Neville Jason is a genius. (And, duh, so is Tolstoy.) Highly recommended.
The story of War and Peace is an amazingly colorful and exciting story. It's almost a thrill a minute. But some thrills are quieter than others. The way the drawing room and the battle field start to become parallel in the reader's mind is brilliant. The narrator makes the story a pleasure to listen to. This book isn't meant to be gulped down or swallowed all at once. It's meant to be sipped and enjoyed, like a fine wine.
I cannot imagine a better narrator, for this great book, than Neville Jason. I read it 3 times before hearing it read by NJ and I cannot praise it too highly - his narration adds a new dimension to the experience of this masterpiece. I wish Audible would make all Tolstoy's and Dostoyevsky's books available - must be read by NJ.
Thank you too Tolstoy, Neville Jason & Audible.
It took me a few months to get through this but it was well worth it. I think even better than the story is the superb reading by the narrator. I will go in search of other audiobooks by this narrator because he was so good. In a book that has so many characters he was able to give each person their own unique personality. Being a history grad I really enjoyed this book, but I understand that it may be a bit daunting for most casual readers. Yet it entwines love stories with Russian history beautifully and if someone has the time they would enjoy it. And talk about value, 60 hours for 2 credits...wow!
Yes it is a long story, rather like reading Proust (the atmosphere created by the words and the story is the main thing), but this one has quite some action in it. And being told about an exciting time and a pivotal period in European history it is a "must read" for Americans and Europeans alike. Brilliantly read - never boring.
Listening to a book written more than 100 years ago about a country that I was told by the media/government was an 'enemy' gives me comfort that what I'm going through - at work, at home, in governmental gyrations - has all been experienced before. Mankind survived that period of time, and will survive this. This is everything you could want in a classic - romance, comedy, action, history, philosophy, sadness - plus it gave me a view of wars that were not covered well in American history because our participation was limited to funding Napoleon through the Louisiana Purchase.
The reader is excellent, and gives life to the characters.
It's broken into short 'books' - 2 to 4 hour segments, so you don't have to listen to 30 continuous hours.
I think his philosophy is still relevant, and his opinion on historians and their perspective was interesting.
Utterly flawless narration! Like an earlier reviewer, I have tried a couple of times to read War and Peace and always got mired in Part Two. Thanks to this talented narrator and a relaxing 40 minute commute, I made it through Part Two and am now totally engrossed. I am now inspired to go back and read the book.
I read War and Peace a few years ago and enjoyed it very much. I recently felt the desire to read it again and decided to seek out an audiobook version this time, for a little variety. I am quite pleased I did!
This is an excellent recording and the narrator is fantastic. He does an marvelous job with all the characters and truly brings this magnificent work to life.
Tired teacher. That is, REtired teacher.
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???.
"better with an an abridged version?"
This is a VERY long book.
One of the reasons for this is that large sections of the book deal with Tolstoy's version of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, his views on Napoleon (he does not like him at all), the Russian general and the forces of history - all quite interesting but not at such inordinate length - I gave up with two hours to go when I realised that the actual story had finished! In between, 'War and Peace' is a timeless story rightly famed and deserving of classic status (though my own view is that 'Anna Karenina' is a far better book).
I dont normally like let alone recommend abridged versions, but I think this case is an exception; the book without the historical interludes would be about half the length, and much of the narrative of the story itself could be trimmed without losing too much. So unless you are a particular lover of Tolstoy, I would opt for a shortened version.
The length is not helped by what I thought was a rather one-paced and dry narration, with little distinction drawn between the various characters.
"An investment you'll never regret!"
The television adaptation of War and Peace must be encouraging those who have never read Tolstoy’s daunting mega-book to have a go. If you’re one of them, choose this unabridged version read by Neville Jason. If you are going to invest 30 hours – and that’s Volume 1 alone – to listening to every word which Tolstoy wrote, the narrator is uber-crucial. Neville Jason is quite simply the all-in-one Rolls Royce and Ferrari of audiobook narrators who has recorded more titles than any other narrator for Naxos Audiobooks - including 153 hours of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past!
War and Peace is a gargantuan recording accomplishment which within the first half hour takes you right into the pretentious aristocratic St Petersburg drawing room of Anna Pavlovna who ‘serves up guests like choice morsels’. Jason captures the self-absorbed characters through his voice and intonation, somehow making the names of families which can be so confusing - the Bezukhovs, Bolkonskis and Kuragins - and their individualities and complex relationships clear and glitteringly real.
Prince Andrei starts the ‘war’ sections when he leaves St Petersburg to join his regiment against Bonaparte. His father dismisses him with apparent stiff formality, but after his son has gone, he can be heard ‘blowing his nose like pistol shots’. It is into human details like these of love, marriage, despair and glory, and Tolstoy’s many similes, that Jason's nuanced, finely-paced narration draws you into, and which make the Battle scenes Austerlitz, Borodino and so on – with the soldiers ‘hacking away at the dogs’ as they are ordered to do a shattering experience merely to listen to.
Invest those 30 hours in this first Volume and you’ll never regret it. There is nothing else like it, with the whole brought into brilliant, kaleidoscopic life by the incomparable Neville Jason whose legacy this recording is. He died in Autumn 2015.
"for people with a lot of time on their hands"
Without wishing to state the obvious, you need a lot of time to listen to the story from beginning to end. There are lots of characters, lots of settings, lots of dramatic moments and a lot of historical references.
I had the time and enjoyed it very much. I'm not sure why it's such a celebrated novel. The story just goes on and on. There are also extended passages that border on the philosophical. I'm pretty sure I would never have had the patience to read this story in paper form.
"An imaginative and immaculate rendering!"
Most of the world seems to divide into two groups, those that are going to read War and peace one Day and those that reread it every five years. Whether you belong to one of these groups or neither, this is my ideal experience of having it read to me.
It is extraordinary that Tolstoy's massive novel centred round the Napoleonic wars and saturated in the Russian class system of the time manages to be such a remarkable comment on the human condition. Tolstoy's observations on the quirks of human nature and his reading of human psychology is a very good illustration of how great novelists are so much more useful than psychology textbooks if you really want to understand something important about how people think and feel.
Neville Jason has a delivery which, like that of a good interpreter enables you to forget that there is anyone between you and the text. His subtle but accomplished contributions of accidents and dramatisation (conveying the way the troops cheer on the battlefield, for example) brings everything to life but leaves the essence to your imagination in the way that a full dramatisation does not.
This is a reading it will be very hard to beat.
A very pleasantly read story by Neville Jason: absolutely absorbing and enthralling listening!
I had read the book in the past and I loved it but this is one of those cases where the story gains a lot from the reading from an actor...
I would recommend it.
"A great book, beautifully read."
I seldom award five stars to anything - on the premise that there is always room for improvement - but I have broken my rule in the case of Neville Jason's reading of War and Peace.
This is a very long book but Jason never flags. He manages the female characters convincingly (not easy for a male reader without sounding ridiculous) and possesses a first class command of accents. I was especially impressed with his reading of the great set piece passages in the book: battles, the hunt etc.
Thoroughly recommended; I am now embarking on Volume Two.
"An epic reading"
This is a superb reading. All too often with very long works read as audiobooks the monotonous, mechanical tone of the reader gives the impression that the words come out of the mouth without ever going anywhere near the mind. But Neville Jason proves to be an ideal reader for such a vast and varied novel. The narration is constantly sensitive to the tone and pace of Tolstoy's writing and he has an impressive skill in differentiating and giving a plausible voice to each of the many characters. Even readers who are very familiar with the text will find this reading illuminates scene after scene.
As for the novel itself recommendation is superfluous for anyone who has once read this marvellous book. I can think of very few other novels that leave the reader with so vivid a sense of lived experience and once read forever haunt the imagination. But if anyone has been deterred from undertaking such a lengthy work this excellent audiobook may well prove the ideal way to get to know one of the supreme(and most enjoyable) masterpieces of world literature.
"Not much war!"
Turns out this book is mainly just lots of conversations happening in various ballrooms. It's much more about marriages than war. I was rather disappointed with this. The Narrator is good though and it is relaxing, but I don't think I'll ever need to listen to it again!
"great book, great performance."
Great performance of a great book.
one two three four five six seven eight nine.
Listening to this great story read so well has been a wonderful experience. I have read it, seen it and heard it in the radio, but it as fresh as ever in this reading.
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