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)
Neville Jason does a good (but not great) job reading this longest of long books. The dialogue, as read, is more dynamic than the narration; and the men are voiced more effectively than the women. (Unfortunately, given the amount of time she spends "onscreen," I found Jason's reading of Natasha to be somewhat shrill.) The Frederick Davidson recording is more dynamic, but Davidson's voice seems to rub a lot of people the wrong way. Jason at least has a smooth and mellow voice, and his reading is clear and unhurried.
This is the Maude translation, and Naxos (and Audible) get five stars for making it available in an attractive and accessible format. There are fourteen books in "War and Peace," plus an epilogue, and the recording is divided by book, with a chapter mark for each chapter: so it's very easy to find your way around and know exactly where you are in the story. The idea that you can get the whole thing for only two credits is amazing.
The book is long, some 70 hours or more, but most of the chapters are short and full of absorbing detail. The chapters that aren't -- where Tolstoy lays out his philosophy of history, or summarizes some of the larger historical context from 50,000 feet -- can probably be skipped without great loss. (To oversimplify, Tolstoy basically seems to be saying that while individuals think they have free will in an individual sense, when you step back and look at events from a larger perspective you see that reality is overdetermined and that what happened was inevitable. He also suggests that the "great man" theory of history is seriously flawed, because all the kings of the earth can't do squat without the individual acts of every single pawn.)
I realize that's heresy, but it would be better to get the story and skip the philosophy than to skip the book altogether. The story itself is incredible.
Love having someone read me a story. Fires in the hearth, rain on the roof, sunny days and surf. Good friends, good food and J S Bach.
If you are like me and have tried to read this book and given up , then this is the way to go. Neville Jason does read well.
The names both familiar and formal are accepted by the English speakers' ear and are recognized......Phew....... And it is possible to relax and enjoy this great book. History unfolds as the narrative progresses. Some books lead me to research more than the story tells.....and....................
Apart from learning more about Napoleon, I became very curious about when and how slavery come to Russia.
A great book and a journey into the past too.
I love listening to audiobooks as I make my commute through LA traffic. It makes the time pass and eases the anxiety of people who shouldn't have a license.
Tolstoy's War & Peace gives a fairly accurate portrayal of life among the upper class Russian society during the Napoleonic Wars. It gives a historical account of the war between Napolean and Alexander, all the while set behind the facade of several interwoven upper class Russian families. It's a very entertaining, and classic work, from one of Russia's greatest novelists. It doesn't however touch upon the poverty stricken serfs who made up the majority of the population of Russia at the time. In this case, I've always felt Dostoyevsky does a much better job in capturing a more realistic portrayal of Russian society. Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamozov both give you a better look at the social climate of the period, if that's what you're looking for.
In other words. It's kind of a cool story about rich people during a war. It can be a little boring in places, but if you like history, you'll probably like the book. And it takes a good chunk of time out of a commute of a long car trip!!! LOL
From Mr. Jason's first utterance until 60 hours later his last syllable of Leo Tolstoy's magnum opus "War and Peace" I was living in Russia. Living with the aristocracy, peasants; cavalry and Cossacks. Soldiers and surfs. In castles, dungeons, town houses, huts and tents, ballrooms and battlefields.
Not for one moment was I distracted or aware of time's passage.
I listened to W & P right after "Anna Karinina". There is not enough Tolstoy. How can one comprehend this man's mind? You can not.
On to Dostoyevsky. Russian literature, what transcendent joy.
I do have some quibbles, however, and that's with the epilogue, especially the second epilogue.
Tolstoy makes some interesting points in the otherwise dull and lifeless epilogue - the concept of an objective observer predates Einstein in many ways - but he really, really did not need to go one and on about a point he already made through the course of the novel proper. Of course much time (and tastes) have changed sine he wrote this and a modern author wouldn't dare tell the reader what to think and what lesson to take away from a book (show, don't tell), but even forgiving the style, Tolstoy tries too hard to hammer home a point he can't put into words very well.
Sure, he wants to say that above all, beyond power and influence and even time and space, only one thing can be the cause AND effect of all earthly concerns, but his own logic betrays his hypothesis. He never once applies the same rules of his line of reasoning to his supernatural explanations for the human condition. Yes, man has no true and complete 'free will' nor does he owe every decision of his life to that of a controlling master, yet to say that only something that exists completely out of time and space (and therefore not subject to the rules he lays out in his logic) is a cop-out. He just wants to prove there is a god and he fails because like the historians he condemns for the shortsightedness, the more power one has the less influence they wield at the lowest level.
I actually felt bad for Tolstoy reading that second epilogue because he otherwise made his point quite clear before then too. I mean, the whole reason why War and Peace is so long is to convey that great sense of time needed to see things in a greater context and too explain how complicated and messy life really is. He couldn't do that in a smaller book and certainly not in an epilogue.
Yet the novel is a complete masterpiece, even with this one flaw because it's so grand, so complete, so observant and so mesmerizing that at times we feel like a god looking down on his creation and being able to see and hear and know the deepest thoughts and fears and foibles of everyone alive at any given moment. Tolstoy basically allows us to play the great deity he tries so hard to prove exists externally of the universe; god is not 'out there', he's us. He's each of us. He's the confused mess of stumbling humanity haplessly slouching towards some unknown and unforeseen future that never could have been predicted to begin with. The ebb and flow of history is made up of a billion billion vibrating lives each pressing against each other in a dance like that at a great Russian soiree and every so often a beautiful songbird flutters into the room, delights everyone for an instant and inspires us to love.
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!!
I really enjoyed the first volume of this book. Neville Jason is a tallented narrator and makes the story easy to follow with identifiable and unannoying voices. I highly recommend this audiobook.
Tired teacher. That is, REtired teacher.
I ended up loving this book. Yes, it is long, and has a lot of stuff in it that could be cut out, but omitting anything would lessen the book. I am very happy that I listened to the entire 61 hours and 44 minutes. I am pretty sure I have changed, and have grown as a person as a result of this book. Now I'm going to go listen to something light and cheerful!
BTW, Neville Jason is an amazing narrator! My standard for judging a good narrator is "could I listen to him read the phone book and enjoy it?" Yes, I could, Neville. Thank you.
I don't know who I am.
This is the Leo Wiener translation from 1904 if anyone is interested. There are nine other english editions. I have not read the other editions, but this one was an incredible read/listen, and I highly recommend it :)
Rye-and-Indian, baked daily.
This audiobook is unquestionably superb, from story and translation to narration and production. Period.
To supplement my listening, I bought Oxford's paperback of the Maude translation (http://goo.gl/BW50SD). Of most value to my entire W&P experience was my reading of Maude's foreword in the Oxford print (not present in the audiobook). Following the Oxford guidance the foreword should be read as an afterword for the first-time reader, this "afterword" hit me upside the head like the stock of a bayonet in Austerlitz: the characters, analysis, use of the French language, parallels between the characters and Russia, etc. It was as if I was staring at the heavens, lost in amazement and beauty for 60+ hours, and finally someone comes up from behind and points out that I've been staring at hundreds of constellations all this time and I didn't even realize it.
Schmoop's chapter-by-chapter summaries (http://goo.gl/1X9mwP) is spoiler-free (don't stray into other sections of their website) and excellent for quick reminders of what has happened in chapters past.
The journey to read and (only start to) understand what W&P is all about was worth every minute. As I "zoom out" away from the book for the first time in 1.5 months, the gravity of the book seems to be growing by the day. What will stick with me as the years go by? I wager Andrei at Austerlitz, Natasha emptying the wagons of luggage, Pierre's actions in abandoned Moscow, Natasha at the opera, Natasha and Marya's relationship, Petya's charge into battle, the final months of Kutuzov's career, pretty much any death scene, ruminations on predeterminism, Nikolenka hanging out with the adult men, and (of course!) any parties involving a window sill. Long live War and Peace.
I need to refute the previous review. The range of Jason's voice and interpretation is astounding. As for the story and how it is written, never fear. This is a long and engrossing historical novel with plenty of wide panaoramic views and attention to romantic and period detail. Situations are described in their essence and the flavour of the time thoroughly captured. The spiritual aspect of Tolstoy's tale is as gripping as the unfolding of the events.It is fabulous!
"Better than I remembered"
I read War and Peace about thirty years ago. Having now completed listening to both volumes all I can say is it is better than I remembered. As a twenty year old I was obsessed with the lives of the protagonists. Now I'm in my fifties I was much more interested in Tolstoy's discussion of the how the war happened almost independently of the activities of Emperors and Generals. The final epilogue to volume 2 is a fascinating discussion of free will.
The narration was excellent throughout. I will definitely be listening to some more "classics".
"Beautifully narrated classic"
I cannot fault this recording. This lengthy and increasingly discursive novel is not for everyone but is much more accessible via the spoken word. If you have always felt that you should have read it but could not face the sheer length, give Volumes 1 & 2 from Audible with its excellent narration a try.
Having read this book more than once before listening I believe I have gained even more from this audio version.
I'm sure that there are very many better and more detailed reviews of War and Peace, but for me this has been very much worth the time. The reading is simply superb and quite frankly leads you through it skilfully and carefully. The characters soon become well known and though the style is long ( hurry up and die will you) the story is highly entertaining and a deep insight into the time and culture. Go for it!
"Great reading of a classic!"
If it were up to the reading alone, I would give this audiobook at least a four-star. Neville Jason read it well and made it enjoyable to listen to. Unfortunately, as highly praised as the book is, I did not enjoy it as much. It's long, and at times winded. I am not one to be daunted by big books, and without a doubt Tolstoy's writing is lasting, but the vastness of the tale just did not manage to capture me. At times the story managed to transported me to 19th century Russia, but other times it talked about such miniscule things and so many people that I just couldn't keep my interest at bay. I enjoyed the Peace part, not so much the War part or the essaying like in the Second Epilogue.
"well, War and Peace."
War and Peace a classic, it has take some time but it is well worth it.
"Beautiful. Just beautiful."
When I finished listening to the second epilog my first thought was: oh my God, how is the world and our understanding of ourselves and the nature of free will not been completely uprooted and revolutionised by this essay? I shall have to look it up. I'm sure smarter people than me have looked at this and have come up with good reasons. It should be interesting never the to know why.
"Great epic, marred by annoying historiography"
Only if I knew they had the patience to stick with it. It is very, very long, but great if you enjoy a novel that really takes its time.
Pierre staying in Moscow during the French occupation and his subsequent imprisonment.
I liked his voice overall, although I found some of his female character voices sounded a bit Hinge and Bracket.
Definitely not!! I don't think anyone could cope with that!
This is a great story, but I did find Tolstoy's relentless historiographical lectures annoying.
"A Hard But Worthwhile Slog"
Listening to Tolstoy's epic novel is probably easier than reading it as it was hard-going at times. The interminable descriptions of battle were particularly tedious but the interwoven fates of the various families balanced it out.
The epilogue was the most interesting part. Philosophical musings on the nature of mankind, the history of warfare, and an analysis of both the powerful and the powerless.
"Classic despite the unexpected philosophising"
Loved this book. Totally engaging from start to finish expertly characterised by Neville Jason. Tick on this years audio bucket list. 70 odd hours of listening pleasure.
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