Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tom's Two Cents : War and Peace

The Big One

Now that we've gotten you past one thousand pages you're ready to hear about some of the really big ones, and of that group Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace is one of the biggest--not just in size but in range and depth of narrative.

Come to think about it, War and Peace combines some of the best features of Lonesome Dove and Gone With the Wind: a story of friendship between two Russian nobles ending in death for one, and a beguiling young heroine whom both are in love with--Natasha Rostov, the darling of an aristocratic family beset with tragedy during the Napoleonic War of 1812.  There are so many parallels to GWTW, in fact, that I've often wondered if Margaret Mitchell wasn't inspired in part by War and Peace some 75 years later: the burning of Atlanta and the burning of Moscow for one.

War and Peace is more complex than the other two novels I've recommended because it has so many characters involved in so many life altering situations.  At first it may seem that the number of characters and their long, unfamiliar names is an unravelable puzzle, but once you begin to sort them out they will endear themselves to you and become just like people you know.  Tolstoy's greatest gift as a writer is his ability to put you in an unfamiliar situation and make it feel as natural to you as one involving the people next door.

Our next column:  short novels are rewarding too!