I read Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.💅 I started microdosing it daily on January 1st and finished all 921 pages this morning.
I devoured Anna Karenina as a teenager, but I I was not expecting that same breeziness here (if a lengthy Russian novel about adultery can be said to be breezy). One of my college professors once told me that Tolstoy was embarrassed by the melodrama in Anna Karenina and considered the more serious War and Peace to be his masterpiece.
There is a small bit of truth to this. Let's get that out of the way. Tolstoy occasionally interrupts his narrative to, I am sorry there is no other verb for this, pontificate. He'll end a battle scene on a thrilling cliffhanger, then spend a couple of chapters talking philosophy. Tolstoy loves to criticize the historians of the Napoleonic era. He does not merely do history. He does historiography.
But leaving aside those digressions: this book is a damn soap opera.
We've got affairs, gambling, botched abortions, pistols at dawn, secret societies, heirs vying for fortunes, peacetime deaths, wartime deaths, love triangles, broken engagements, controlling fathers, and bigamy. The only thing missing is a premature burial.
I read the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (ISBN 978-1-78888-652-9, Sirius Publishing, part of Arcturus Publishing). If you'd rather watch the movie, there have been a ton of adaptations. I haven't seen any, but when I was getting started and still trying to keep the characters straight in my head, I kept looking up images from the BBC adaptation, and the costuming is gorgeous.
I am glad I can finally settle that question that every person must ask of themselves: Dostoevsky or Tolstoy? I am #TeamDostoevsky. While I enjoyed War and Peace immensely (the melodrama parts , at any rate), The Brothers Karamazov will never be dethroned.
When Covid first hit, I started doing book talks on social media as a way to keep in touch with people. I never got out of the habit. I don't discuss books by my clients, and if I don't like a book, I won't discuss it at all. While I will sometimes focus on craft or offer gentle critical perspectives, as a matter of professional courtesy, I don't trash writers. Unless they're dead. Then the gloves come off.