2.23.2011

War and Peace - done

(*I apologize that there is no picture for this post. Our house is in shambles because of our leak and also because we just returned from a trip. The hedgehogs from previous War and Peace photos are nowhere to be found. Possibly gone forever.)

So, I finally finished War and Peace, and I loved it. In fact the week I finished, I wandered around in a War and Peace haze, consumed by thoughts of Natasha, Andrei, and Pierre (after spending 1400 pages with my fictional friends, I became very attached. Even to old wrinkly angry Prince Bolkonsky). I found that everything I encountered somehow seemed to relate back to an idea or scene from the book. There is so much to think about with this beast of a novel and I don't want to write anything that would spoil it for anyone who is considering reading it (maybe we can discuss in the comments, Sophie and Christen and anyone else who finished? I'm really curious to hear your takes on some specific things).
But generally speaking, I loved how Tolstoy wrote these characters, and how good he was at describing human character in its entirety, particularly weaknesses, and with such honesty and gentleness (very instructive for those of us who are kind of idiots most of the time).
I also loved how spiritual the book was - particularly I loved Pierre's re-birth, so to speak. And that those characters who were most admirable in the book (to me) were the ones who asked themselves hard questions and found answers to those questions through a belief in something bigger and more beautiful than their own intellect - namely, the existence of God and His involvement in their lives.
Sigh, to all of it, and that it is finished.
What next? Any suggestions? I've always been completely intimidated by The Brothers Karamazov...


22 comments:

Lila said...

Oh, I love War and Peace! And to think, it was intended to be the first of a trilogy! The Brothers Karamazov is great but was a lot harder for me to get through (I tend to blaze through Tolstoy but I like to take my time with Dostoevsky). Have you read Anna Karenina? I think the thing about Tolstoy for me is how relate-able he made his characters -the humor, particularly. One thing I found interesting was to study both authors' lives. Tolstoy's personal history and growth is fascinating. He was a wild youth but became increasingly more devout -this manifested itself into his rigid treatment of himself. Dostoevsky's story of how he and his wife got together is very romantic. He had a great deal of debt
(from his father and brother) and took an advance from a publisher on the condition that within a year he would present the publisher with a novel. If he did not, all of the proceeds from future works would belong to the publisher. A month before it was due, he had nothing and his friends sent a stenographer to help him. They worked together and finally, it was going to be finished! But the publisher found out and left town so it couldn't be turned in. The stenographer went to a lawyer and they decided to have it time stamped at the police station the day it was due. So, the book was done and the stenograher (Anna) had no reason to go to Dostoevsky's house anymore. He missed her and she missed him. He visited her and told her about a story he was thinking of with an old man who loved a beautiful young lady and what did she think should happen? Anna said they should marry. So then, they did. :) Sorry for the rambling...I really love Russian Lit.

Beth Stone said...

Perhaps Les Miserables? (If you can handle the length of W&P, this will be cake!) I've got War and Peace on my reading list for this year.... now you've gotten me excited about it! Thanks for sharing. Also, sorry I missed the hedgehogs - I'm going to have to dig back through your archives to see what that's all about. :o)

Carlee Dynes said...

I just finished reading the Brothers Karamazov, and it was easier than I expected it to me. My literature group is reading it together, and it we are lucky to have a Russian Lit PhD among us. Don't be scared of it. If you can tackle War and Peace, you are ready for the Brothers K.

meg said...

I was going to say the Brothers K! I've just started it and it's fantastic. I read both War and Peace and the brothers k in college and definitely liked the dostoevsky better. He's more modern than Tolstoy (ha!). But you have to get the translation that the russian couple did--they are the bomb.
You can't be intimidated by any novel, now that you've finished the mother of them all!

jomama said...

i love war and peace, and i majorly love anna karenina, but dostoevsky is my favorite. i took a russian lit class in college, and our professor said that, for him, besides the scriptures, the brothers karamazov was the book that had the most truth and light in it of any book he'd ever read and that it was his favorite.
and now it's my favorite, too. it's not always super-easy to get through, but i think it's totally worth it.

heather said...

wow! i'm not so ambitious as you at the moment. i'm reading Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis- really good! it just occured to me though that you like the susan wise bauer history books- we use those too. my older daughter is in ninth grade this year and i had to buy the Well-Educated Mind by SW Bauer for her schooling. it is for adults and teens and is all about reading at a higher level- challenging ourselves to aquire the classical education we never got as children. there are tons of challenging books in there and also guidelines on how to read them. could give you a great list of "Great Books"!

megan said...

Ooh, Anna Karenina is fantastic. I'd also recommend Doctor Zhivago for being epic and brilliant. The Brothers Karamazov has been mentioned, but I think I preferred Crime and Punishment (although I found Anna Karenina and Zhivago much more enjoyable, it's all a matter of what you prefer of course)

Becca said...

Hey, I am in Carlee's book club! Hi Carlee! I'm almost finished with the Brother's K as well, and find myself sneaking away at any given moment to get my Brothers fix. It is a must read!

Jilly said...

Crime and Punishment! I haven't read War and Peace yet, but I read Anna Kareienen and Crime and Punishment and the Idiot, and Crime and Punishment was my favorite by far. Its a total psychological thriller.

Marlo said...

The Count of Monte Cristo.....my favorite book ever. It's a serious page turner and I've never met anyone who has read it and not loved it. Can't wait to see what your next pick will be. I missed War and Peace, but I am going to try to work through it anyway.

Vicky said...

Well done on finishing it. My copy only got half read and then stored away in the loft.

Catherine said...

Phew, congratulations! I can't wait to hear what the next book is.

twirling betty said...

Well, I'm 90% through. Pierre has just met Natasha again and then left for Petersburg.
I was utterly drawn in by my last week or so of reading that encompassed the battle at Borodino (Kutuzov is one of my favourite characters) the defeat of Moscow by the French, Pierre's capture and incarceration and subsequent fulfilment, and Prince Andrew's s death.
In these chapters Tolstoy has, it seems to me, been bringing all the overarching themes into greater relief as we move towards the business end of things! I'm not sure I completely understand them all.
Like the question of how (and, indeed whether) we obtain true happiness. On the one your hand he talks a lot of the "mysterious forces" that govern the actions of men; the way in which you can never look at either a cause or outcome and extrapolate either back or forwards to work out why a certain event unfolded as it did: rather, everything is subject to these mysterious forces that we can never know. But on the other, he has presented us with 1400 pages mainly concerned with the minutiae of people's lives. Is this deliberate ironY? Or just illustrative I wonder.
Is he suggesting, do you think, we have to resign ourselves to the notion that what will be will be in order to be happy?
I feel Tolstoy was presenting Pierre as his case study of this thesis: one who is forced to sumbit to their fate and relinquish the outcome of their lives to others - as Pierre was forced to do during his capture by the French. And he was never happier. Or was that more to do with the removal of all the superfluity, the trappings of wealth, from his life? I'm not sure. Perhaps both?
The chapter I've just read ends with this:
"If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, the possibility of life is destroyed".
A statement like that makes me think of all that has been recounted before as like a series of wind-driven waves on a pond. if you watch them, they meet, part, combine, repel each other all in a fluid but seemingly (pre)determined way but ultimately without control over themselves or any of the other waves.
I hope I'm managing to convey what I'm trying to say - I don't think I'm being very articulate - sorry. Also, I could actually write pages and pages but will resist.
Sigh, indeed.
Lynne - I'd love to know what you wanted our take on. That way I can mull it over as I finish the last little bit. Unless there is some shocking ending (I'm still recovering from Moby Dick so be gentle with me) that you'll have to give away to do that.
If so, please do bear with me because I'm so close and will be desperate to talk about it at the very end.

twirling betty said...

PS:After Jomama's professor's comment about the Bros, I'm loving the sound of that.

lynne said...

Wow, Christen, you have given me a lot to think about today. I love your idea about the waves in the water; I need to go knit so I can ponder.

Sophie said...

congrats on finishing! if you had to pick a theme for each book in the book (or just a word) what would it be, and what was your favourite of the four?

melissa said...

I'd like to suggest some French literature: Maupassant's short stories, (I like "Ball of Lard" it's a quick read, but is full of historical metaphors; Madame Bovary (it's a bit dark, like many French books, but well worth the read,) Gabrielle Roy (She's French Canadian and one of my favorite writers. I love her autobiography "Enchantment and Sorrow." She writes about her childhood in Canada, growing up in a poor family, then her later travels in Paris and London. I loved this book.)

Emily said...

Though not Russian, it is war-related and fantastic: good old Gone with the Wind. I read it way back in Jr. High and thought I'd give it a go again and wow did I love it. Again.

Cass said...

Here's a suggestion for something light and quick, Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster. It was written in 1914 and is a fun read. I just finished reading it and I've been like you, walking around all day thinking about Jerusha and Daddy Long Legs!

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Lauren said...

I will be honest Lynne The Brothers Karamazov doesn't read like War and Peace. I had to re-read parts of it when I read it. Maybe save that one for when the kids go to college:)

I just read 'Freedom' by Jonathan Franzen and am reading 'The Huger Games.' Next up will be 'Cleopatra.' Not classics but still good books.

lynne said...

I am totally adding Daddy Long Legs to my reading list... that sounds really interesting and I've never heard of it...