first read 16th January to 23rd March 2016. 5 // 5 stars.
This book took me two months to finish, and that’s with ongoing nonstop a-chapter-every-day reading. AND IT WAS WORTH IT.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. A suspenseful story of Russia and Moscow and Napoleon. I laughed, I squealed (lots of squeals)(yes it is possible to fangirl over War and Peace), I rolled my eyes (some characters were Mr Collins equivalent), I sighed (oh the state of sin in this world), and I cried (some deaths seemed to be there only to wrench your heart out)(I don’t often cry in books but hey, it was sad).
There were a few things I didn’t like about this otherwise fantastic work, however. I KNOW, I actually have the audacity to question the morals of the great WAR AND PEACE! However, just because a book is old and famous doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be questioned. Books are all the greater for some deep thoughts.
The main fault: the way the book dealt with Christianity. The main character, Pierre, goes through a time of depression and searching. At last he finds peace in freemasonry. In the end, however, he realises that it’s nothing but shallow ideas that are great in principle, but unrealistic in practice. So he keeps searching, and every time he came up in the book I couldn’t help but want to enter the world and have a cup of tea with him, chatting with the sombre character about God and the fact that science doesn’t really disprove the ‘man in the sky’.
That’s just a minor example, but my point is that all of the Christian characters in this book were either of the female sex and therefore treated as weak-willed and sissies and who always lost their beliefs in the end because they didn’t ‘hold up’, or else they were male, which made them shy and retiring and eccentric, and treated as ‘rather odd and best left alone’. Which, of course, is not much of a good opportunity for evangelising.
This was a large idea in the Victorian era – that ‘religion’ was best left to the women and their babies, while the men lived in the real world and knew, of course, that God was only a fairy tale because how on earth could there be anything in this world bigger than themselves. Of course there are exceptions, but it was a major idea of the time, whether they realised it or not. And it is certainly lurking in War and Peace.
True, saving forgiveness found in Jesus is not just for the ‘weak’ women or the ‘rather odd’ men. It is for everyone. And for me, that’s where the great WAR AND PEACE lost a little of its otherwise perfect reputation in my mind palace. It’s not that it treats women as weak-willed and with no opinions worth hearing – that was, after all, a crowning idea of the time and of course it’s going to pop up in a book of its period; I would be annoyed if it didn’t, because then that would be historically inaccurate. It’s just that it treats Christianity as if it were nothing of importance and that even when a few characters did turn to God, they eventually left because they supposedly saw the ‘flaw’ in the Christian Faith.
It makes you ponder on how little the human race has really changed, if we still seek inner peace in flighty things of this world that will not last.
Apart from that, though, this was a brilliant work with excellent writing and word pictures. Just because this is an old book does not mean that the characters are not relatable; indeed, they are terrifyingly so. It was a wonderful book, and I stayed up late to finish it, and I loved it.
Highly recommend that you read this book, with an educated mind.