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)
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!
"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.
"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".
"War & Peace"
In regards to the book itself, it is a social commentary on the Napoleonic wars, which reads a bit like a really long winded history lesson acted out by the cast of Eastenders.
The characters are all annoying as hell but you can't help but route for them and some of the deaths were really heartfelt.
The story is okay but I'm not overly sure you end up with any closure to said story, if you do I missed it and I must admit I think I may have missed a lot about this book simply because it's so freaking long and it really didn't have to be.
In regards to the audiobook read by Neville Jason, it's a good listen. Jason is a great narrator and tells the story incredibly well, however I was offended that all of the peasants in the story were voiced in a south west accent which annoyed me because there are no Russian pirates!
Overall this is a good read and I'm absolutely chuffed I can say I've spent 60 hours of my life absorbing the story of War and Peace, I hope to have many conversations with people about how much of a classical literature bad ass I am also you know it's good to have read what many consider the greatest work of literature of all time.
Recommended to lovers of classical literature, fans of Russian history and egotistical people like me that want to be able to say they have read it.
"It was to be 5 stars"
I approached this book with trepidation (I did start and stop reading it many moons ago) but, although long, it was not at all a chore to listen to. During the first book I struggled with remembering which character was which and how they were related, so I wrote down a list from Wikipedia, then I was off. What struck me was how well Tolstoy perceived and described the innermost feelings of his characters. I had a preconceived notion that an old book written by a man wouldn't really do feelings. Its length gives you plenty of space to know, understand and believe in the characters and I could have continued to follow their lives when the book stopped! The parts where he philosophises about the nature of war were for the most part interesting. The narrator was excellent (what a marathon) although I wasn't completely convinced by his female voices!
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