readalong of War and Peace hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey. I treated myself to an early Christmas present and bought myself this book. It has been sitting on my bookshelf since the middle of December. It took serious will power for me to wait until January 1 to start reading.
My first reaction on opening it was surprise at how much French is in this novel. I am reading the Pevear and Volokhonskly translation and they chose to leave the French in the text and to translate it in the footnotes. I understand their desire to remain true to the original text, but it makes for an interesting reading experience for those of us who don't speak French. I'm not complaining; it just takes a little time to get into the groove of switching from the text to the footnotes so frequently.
The actual story is fantastic. I set a certain number of pages to read each day to make sure I don't fall behind in the readalong. There are days when I don't want to put it down, and I end up read twice as much as I had planned. Tolstoy is a master of characterization. There are numerous characters in this book, but they are so well-drawn and distinct. The first third of this volume focuses on introducing the three main families--the Rostovs, the Bolkonskys, and Bezukhovs. The setting moves between St Petersburg and Moscow. War is in constant discussion at all gatherings, and three men from these families are heading to war. There are some crazy plot points with betrayals, and secret meetings. Great fun!
As the narrative shifted to the front lines of the war, I found it a little difficult. I started to get nervous that the war chapters would be a slog, but after a couple of chapters (chapters are only a few pages each), it picked up, and I found myself flying through them. The battles scenes are so well-written. I felt like I was with them. Battle scenes are not generally something I enjoy, but these were riveting. Tolstoy maintains a fine balance between the broad action and the individual character's experiences during the battle. The ability of the war to bring out an individual's true nature is fascinating. We learn that some are in it for the glory, some are self-sacrificing, and others are cowards and run.
The progression of Prince Andrei Bolkonsky and Pierre's stories are what I am looking forward to the most. I'm loving how Tolstoy's allows the reader into each character's mind. So far, War and Peace is full of high drama, well-crafted characters, and brilliant writing. I am always a little leery of people who claim to love War and Peace. Admit it; you are too. So, shhh...don't tell anyone I like it this much. Hopefully this level of interest will hold for Volumes II-IV!