Friday, April 12, 2019
Thoughts on “War and Peace”
Husband has been giving me a hard time for many years, because I told him once that I tried reading War and Peace by skipping the war chapters... and soon I got lost and the peace chapters didn’t make much sense either.
Well, I was looking for a new challenging book to listen to, after finishing my numerous Dickens in a row, and he suggested War and Peace since we have a copy on audible. I took the challenge and for the last few days have been greatly enjoying it. (I must admit I did increase the speed during the chapters about war, so in it a way I did the same thing I did many years ago.)
I found that the author is far too long winded on his personal opinions about everything that relates to the war, and his very Russian personality comes through everywhere, like when he spends pages and pages explaining his personal opinion about each battle... and of course he is specially eloquent on his opinion of Napoleon.
So the book is basically a romantic story with various characters interspersed between the chapters about the war which is what matters for the author. I think he wanted to write his opinion on the war but inserted the characters and romances so people would read it. So he has the personal lives of the characters come in and out of the battle scenes. The stories are interesting and of course the characters well developed, even if unevenly so. I was specially struck by understanding the full treatment he gave to both Natasha and Pierre, and I thought the Sonya character felt like an afterthought, like if as the book developed and he didn’t quite know what to do with her. Princess Marya was also not very consistent, she kept surprising the reader and seemingly also the author at any given chapter.
There is so much "Tolstoy-theology"in the book. He touches close to the reality of things many times. but like CS Lewis, he never fully gets there. His second epilogue defense on how war is caused by the flaw of individual people and not by commanders and generals is very interesting, and also his defense for the existence of God, and even beautiful, but he lacks the more profound and more fully developed theology to be able to take the reader to the full extent of the truth.
I have to say I enjoyed very much the happy ending, the couples with numerous children having their domestic scene so brilliantly described by him, living in a natural and sincere life in the farm. I loved most specially the last bit where Pierre and Natasha realize that the love of the daily ordinary life of the married couple is the crowning and the best part of any romantic or passionate love of the youth. That was probably my very favorite moment of the book. The scene of forgiveness when Natasha is by Prince Andrei's deathbed is very moving, but I felt that the author fell short of explaining the process Natasha went through as she returned to the practice of faith and developed her spiritual journey into the redemption of God. In the book it just seems like one day she decides to get up and go to church and it’s all said and done. When you had to endure hundreds of pages of Natasha agonizing about this and that, it seems unbalanced.
There is a lot more that can be said. I will wait to see if the WRM Book Club does it soon!