War and Peace
So, what can you say about this book that has been said a million times? It’s many things in one: a novel, a history, a philosophy, etc.
I enjoyed reading it. It took me 50 days of fairly consistent reading – 30-60 minutes per day. The chapters are quite short, taking maybe five minutes, so I always felt like I was making good progress. I read the Garnett translation, which is surprisingly light to get through.
My biggest problem was with character naming. Names can be different in Russian and French (Sonya/Sophie, Mayla/Marie, Helene/Ellen), and the characters are referred to differently depending on who is speaking. Additionally, there’s a title system in Russian nobility, when means people might be referred to by a combination of a modified first name and middle name. Additionally, last names are different for men and woman (Rostov/Rostova are from the same family).
I read it along with the summary at Schmoop, which was quite good (even if it was a bit snarky). Whenever I would finish a reading session, I would go read the Schmoop summary just to confirm my understanding. As I got further and further into the book, I needed this less and less as I was understanding just fine in later chapters.
I enjoyed the story quite a bit. I didn’t care much for Tolstoy’s philosophical meanderings (the last 50 pages, in particular, are quite a blog to get through).
I identified and sympathized with many of the characters, and I was surprised to find that I looked forward to reading the book every day. What began as a desire to read it just to say I had read it, ended up being an enjoyable experience. This morning is the first morning in almost two months when I don’t have a need to read any of it, and I can honestly say I feel a sense of loss about that.