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)
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???.
Neville Jason inhabits Tolstoy's characters - old and young women and men alike - such that throughout their evolution, joys and sorrows, they are all very much brought alive.
I laughed out loud many times and laughed yet again at how familiar character traits are.
Jason makes these come alive and brings out Tolstoy's themes regarding our human nature, as well as the natures of truth and history through his timing and pacing.
I am eager to hear additional work by Mr. Jason ... Proust, here I come.
I am very impressed with the narrator/reader. As others have commented, he manages to maintain a separate voice for dozens of characters. With a story this long and complex, it is a huge help for keeping track of who's who.
At first I found it odd that he tends to use British accents for the various characters, but as the story unfolds, it made perfect sense (in an odd way). For a English speaking audience, who can tell the difference between the accent of a Russian aristocrat or peasant? But, we can instantly understand the class of British character as soon as they start to speak. Add a slight cockney accent and we immediately know "this is a peasant character speaking"
Again, I thought it odd at first too, but came to love it. Very, very well done.
The story is good, though famously long. I have always loved reading, but I personally doubt I would have finished this if it were a book. This is a case of a story being infinitely better in audio, because of the superb skills of the reader.
this seemed daunting at first but it flew past. The characters are very strong and the reader makes them all come alive. He makes spoiled girl tantrums and stuffy society jokes surprisingly fun!
I know this is a classic book and I should be able to read it and like it, however, it does not hold my attention. Five stars for this narrator, though. He has the fantastic ability to differentiate the many characters, going back and forth between accents, genders, ages, speech impediments, and vocal tones seamlessly. It's truly amazing, but even he could not make this book interesting enough for me although I probably gave it more of a chance because of his talents.
Excellent. Engaging, and Entrancing. The reader creates distinctive accents and vocal styles for each character, and makes it so that you need not even know whom the speaker is to identify the speaker. I have always wanted to read this book, and cannot recommend this enough.
When you ask someone if they had read "war and peace" they usually shudder at the thought of a tome that weighs more than a small child, however this audiobook makes such a large work highly enjoyable.
Impossible to categorize this huge work. A beautifully written historical novel of the Russian aristocracy, woven together with a carefully detailed examination of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, battle by battle, and lastly Tolstoy's theories on how and why these events occurred.
The scope of this book is stunning, the characters unforgettable. Although more approachable than I anticipated, the exhaustive historical detail and Tolstoy's emphatic philosophical discourses make this more than a little challenging.
That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, absolutely recommend it, and will probably revisit it sometime in the future. Right now, however, I'm ready for some mindless escapism!!
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
OK, it's long - really long. But there is a good reason why so many people over the years have considered "War and Peace" to be one of the greatest works of fiction ever.
I read it years ago, as an English major, and mostly was just glad to be able to say I'd made it through. But this time, through Audible, I have a clearer view of why it's so impressive, aside from the sheer length. Tolstoy is not just a story teller here; he's a brilliant historian, a sociologist and philosopher, and a point-on observer of the human mind and heart.
First time, I pretty much focused on the plot. Although there are nearly countless characters to try to keep track of, the lives, fortunes, and love adventures of the major ones make for a classic romance - and they are what most abridgements and movie versions of "War and Peace" have concentrated upon.
What really captured my attention in this listen and this time through, however, was the "War." I'm not much of a fan, generally, of battle accounts and the who-was-where-and-why of war stories, but Tolstoy here gives just a genius analysis of the emotions of men in battle and the futility of planning and strategy in what is actually all confusion. Listening to the story, the phrase "fog of war" takes on real meaning. Tolstoy brings the fortunes of war down to their most basic - who is most motivated to fight. The defeat and tragedy of Napoleon's troops is the "same old, same old" story: Generals can plan and plan all they want, but what really matters is the will of ordinary soldiers to defend what means most to them - their homes, families, and native country. Invaders in foreign lands are always at a severe disadvantage, and determined gorilla warfare in defense of the homeland is most likely to prevail.
How much death, pain and expense the world would have been spared since the Napoleonic era had more people read and taken the lessons of Tolstoy to heart!
Neville Jason is a wonderful narrator. This book is a wild ride and a full course study. Persevere, because you'll be a different person when you come out the other side of "War and Peace."
I have edited 38 national best sellers and had a writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
First, Audible offers this novel as two books, which I did not realize when I purchased Volume 1. When I came to the end and realized the story was unfinished and I was out of credits, the representative was good enough to advance me a credit for Volume 2 so I could keep going. Don't make my mistake; purchase both at the same time.
Tolstoy opens a whole world to the readers, and once you enter, you find yourself inhabiting the country and the times, becoming a part of every social strata, and feeling affected by all aspects of Russian life. Living this masterpiece was a wondrous experience for me. The characters are so vivid, you care about what happens to them after you've read the last page.
I tell my clients that authors have three primary responsibilities: to inform, entertain, and evoke emotions from the readers. No one could do a better job of all three than Tolstoy in this amazing novel.
Very new to audio books, this only was my sixth. But, throughout my life, this novel has stood there as my unreachable goal, always calling to me as something so remarkable to those who had the interest and tolerance for reading, which I so woefully lacked.
It is done now; and, how sad and deprived I now feel with the loss of these characters who were so pervasive in my life during the past seven weeks. They never lived but even if they did, they would have died some 200 years ago. And yet I strongly felt their joys, misfortunes and their loss. Such is the power of the detail and care in which Tolstoy crafted their stories - in war and in peace. I am tempted to restart at the beginning but know that I should wait to revisit later.
Neville Jason's reading was masterful. I can only imagine his ability to maintain the characters as he did over such a lengthy recording process to be the result of great intimacy and caring for them and for the reader. The gradual and natural aging of their voices over the course of their lives was handled with great artistry.
Should you have the time and will to commit to this vast work over a period of time, it is worth the epic journey.
"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.
The best audiobook narrator hands down. The story is magnificent, but Neville Jason brings the characters to life!
"Entertaining, amusing, enthralling, wanted more!"
The Narrator expertly delivered this for the entire story. He carries the mood and the characters amazingly. I was so sorry it had ended I stood upright in surprise. I have been totally immersed in another world.
"Worth the effort of listening"
I have read the book but found it rather long winded and dull. This is a much better method of enjoying what is a great saga! Looking forward to Volume 2!
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