On Reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Translated by: Aylmer Maude, Louise Maude

From the award-winning translators of Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov comes this magnificent new translation of Tolstoy’s masterwork.

War and Peace broadly focuses on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the most well-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance and yearning for spiritual fulfillment; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves his family behind to fight in the war against Napoleon; and Natasha Rostov, the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman who intrigues both men.

A s Napoleon’s army invades, Tolstoy brilliantly follows characters from diverse backgrounds—peasants and nobility, civilians and soldiers—as they struggle with the problems unique to their era, their history, and their culture. And as the novel progresses, these characters transcend their specificity, becoming some of the most moving—and human—figures in world literature.

Review:

War and Peace is one of those books that I’ve always wanted to read, but have always been intimidated by. Not that long ago, I decided to give it ago — and I was so glad that I did. It’s such an amazing and iconic book that instead of writing a review, I’ll just talk about my experience reading it.

What else can you say except that the book is epic — in scope and in writing. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but the novel is broken up into parts so it makes it easier, and less intimidating, to read. It’s almost like reading a series.

Tolstoy has this wonderful ability to keep the scope both personal and universal at the same time. The stories of the individual people and the drama of their lives is juxtaposed brilliantly against the war and the politics of France invading Russia. I was taken by many of the characters and was happy to be shown their lives, happinesses, and pains over the course of many years.  There is also a great sense of the difference between the lives of men and women in this novel.

It’s fascinating how Tolstoy adds, very clearly, his own personal views on politics, how great Russia is and why, and how terrible Napoleon is and how he failed. These overt political views are something that is not found in modern writing. I felt I had a whole new understanding on the entire time period, both on the global scale of the war, but also on the manners and values of the Russian people (especially of upper class Russians). Even though I know Tolstoy’s views are biassed, that is part of the history too.

This was definitely a book I was happy to read on my ereader as I don’t like hold overly large books. I found it for free at The Guttenberg Project — a great place to find free ecopies and audiobooks of copy write free books.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

(Harry Potter #1)

by J.K. Rowling

This isn’t exactly a book review — it is so hard to review such an iconic book. This is more about the experience of re-reading Harry Potter after so many years.
Our local library is an amazing place, and this year, they have started a Book Geeks reading club aimed at adults, where our goal is to read and talk about one of the Harry Potter books each month. We had our first meeting earlier this month and it was so much fun. There was a group of us, all who were excited to geek out about Harry Potter.
I was an adult when Harry Potter first came out and I decided to pick it up because I knew I’d never be able to talk to my niece and nephew again if I didn’t because all of their conversation revolved around it. Instantly, I was hooked and raced through the books as they came out.
Re-reading The Philosopher’s Stone now was so much fun. I could look at what Rowling wrote in the context of the whole series and see the brilliance of it. Not only is it an entertaining and exciting book in it’s own right, full of interesting characters and battles between good and evil, but it set up the whole series. I was so impressed by things I would never have noticed all of those years ago, like mentions of characters important in the next books, and themes and story arcs that are integral to the whole series. Rowling’s vision for her series is masterful. I’ve recently heard that Rowling wrote the end of the last book before she ever wrote the first word of the first book — an impressive feat, but this certainly is what unifies the series so beautifully.
What is there to say, really? The Philosopher’s Stone, even 20 years after it was published, is still one of the best middle grade books out there. It is timeless. My daughter recently started reading this series herself and she is as excited about it now as my niece and nephew were all of those years ago.

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