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.
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"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 narrator does a decent job of making his voice vary from character to character and his pace is well suited for the book. I'm not a fan of buying two volumes instead of one, but it's definitely worth it.
My journey through War and Peace is over, and the 62 hours (Vol 1+2) was a worthwhile and rewarding journey. I won't add to what so many others have said about Tolstoy's brilliant work, but I did 2 extra things that added a great deal of understanding, depth and perspective:
First, the book is famous for having lots of characters and different story lines, so I listened to many of the chapters 2 or even 3 times. I was surprised at how many little things I didn't get the first time, so this added to the enjoyment (not to mention that I was afraid of getting lost). And the 62 hours ended up at around 100, for me at least. I loved them all.
Secondly, I did Internet searches and there is a lot of W&P background material that is helpful: I printed a list of characters, read the Wikipedia analysis of the book (there are many more) to give me a big overview of where things were going, read a little more about Napolean, and pulled up maps of the various Russian cities.
This paid big dividends in understanding the history and times. Tolstoy gave us a novel from the Russian perspective here, and not a history book, so he often assumes that we know things of Russia in the early 1800's. But we don't.
For example, the French army was starving, freezing, sick, depleted and in tatters well before they reached Moscow, but the we don't hear much of this until they are in full-scale retreat late in the book.
This informal research is fun during your read, when it's time to take a break. Like now.
A great thing about audiobooks is I find I'm able to get through lengthy classics I wouldn't have tackled otherwise. Neville Jason made it easy for me to love this novel, making characters so real that it felt like I was watching a movie. There's plenty of action. But what's more surprising is how fresh Tolstoy's observations on people and human nature--about politics, love, and the difficulty of living up to our own ideals--are today. His dry humor would be right at home on Letterman. Kudos also to the production team. Jason obviously doesn't read this all in one sitting, but I almost never noticed the transition between takes that has been a mild distraction in other audiobooks. Great job!
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.
Classics, history, historical fiction, marketing, Napoleonic stuff and of course 'Boys own Adventure'. This is my bent. Occasional self help as well.
I read and reread this book and Neville Jason does an excellent job narrating this book. This is a classic worth reading and this narration worth the listen to. The last few chapters could be missed as Tolstoy puts his own bent on the forces of history, but if you are a student of history, you need to know this. Otherwise, this book is entertaining, surprising easy to read or listen to and a joy to have in your heart. Great stuff this.
The many interesting characters and stories, the contrast in theme between their presence in vivid battlefield scenes and peacetime pursuits, their varied struggles with the great questions of life’s purpose, moral obligations to one’s fellow man, and the path to worldly happiness and spiritual peace all make this work both great and fascinating. With this book I feel I have expanded my circle of understanding to now include a number of 19th Century Russians who have shared their most intimate thoughts and feelings with me. They are described and presented in this book by a master literary craftsman who has portrayed them as real life characters, including all of their faults and foibles.
Tolstoy’s frequent background commentaries are part of the work. They are excellent and lend greater depth to the story. The narrator for this edition is also excellent. You will gain from this book not just an enriching personal experience, but a greater understanding of Russian history and sensibilities emerging from the great struggles against Napoleon. A major time commitment, but well worth your time.
I should have sampled it instead of looking at the number of stars. I personally have difficulty remaining focused when listening to narrators with strong, albeit lovely, British accents. It's not just this book but any to which I listen.
Neville Jason reads exressively, and the characters each have their own unique voices. Very enjoyable.
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.
A masterpiece must be displayed correctly so as to to bring forth its full splendor. This allows the viewer the deep experiencing necessary to brings art to life. Neville Jason's narration gives Tolstoy such a display. His intelligence and emotional depth bring War and Piece to life and reveal its timelessness and beauty.
"Epic book, epic reading!"
There's nothing to say about the book or the author that hasn't been said already. I've read the book a couple of times but I don't think I need to pick it up ever again after this, the reading by Neville Jackson is an exemplary rendition, not overly dramatic nor could it be said to be bland. He strikes just the right note.
Anyone want a well thumbed paperback??
This was well narrated. the only problem mwas that the nevel is so long it is hard to keep track of the characters
"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.
"War and Peace is alive and kicking"
I first read War and Peace as a teenager and loved it. Tolstoy keeps readers in touch with the various families in the story by not spending long periods at war or at peace. Neville Jason is very easy to listen to. I have also found it interesting as the other side to the story of the Napoleonic Wars that I am researching for my family history. The Chapters and Parts come in bite sized chunks, so it is easy to listen to in small but regular doses.
"War and Peace"
Absolutely wonderful! A whole world is created and the narrator is perfect. Very highly recommended.
"Pros and cons"
Fantastic narration - full of life, and the characters are given wonderful accents. The historical theory sections don't half drag though.
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