"War and Peace" is not an enjoyable book, but it is an important one. Who am I to question Tolstoy's historical magnificence or brilliant writing? No one. Therefore I do not raise that question.
"War and Peace" is remarkably different from "Anna Karenina". Tolstoy's prose is in "War and Peace" not as poetical, fluent or graceful as it is in "Anna Karenina". I did not stumble upon beautiful quotes that I wanted to keep in my heart forever, I did not marvel at the beautiful phrasing or simplistic portraits. But I did wonder about complex ideologies, war theories and politics.
The characters are perhaps not the most important thing in this book - the history is. Tolstoy blows life into historical events, actual personalities and real decisions. He makes the incomprehensive, comprehensible. He has a firm grasp on history, and manages to blend it beautifully with fiction. He moves from an impossibly broad scope to a very specific macro perspective in a nanosecond. The reader is gracefully intertwined in a cobweb of fiction and reality, constantly moving from one to another.
The writing is quite simple, concise, to the point. There is no dwelling, no doodling. In fact, there is no reason to fear Tolstoy or his writing, as the words themselves are very easy to read - their meaning, and their labyrinth of characters/fiction/history on the other hand are frustratingly complex.
What is the problem then? Or more specifically my problem? Well, the thing is, while Tolstoy's philosophies are important, interesting and historically significant they do not make an enjoyable read. Every volume of this book begins with chapters of Tolstoy's own opinion of Napoleon and the circumstances surrounding him, and it feels so repetitive.
Also, part of this is my own fault. I am not as interested in politics and war, as one ought to be, to enjoy this. I am interested in fiction. In Tolstoy's characters, their destinies and their way of life. The peace-part of "War and Peace" was always the one I loved the most.
I adored reading about the aristocratic families, their individual struggles, the ties that bound them together and tore them apart. The Rostovs in particular drew me in, and Natasha's uprise and downfall kept me turning the pages.
Pierre was always a little mysterious and peculiar to me; but from the first page it is evident, he is destined for perseverance, endurance and strength. He was perhaps not my chosen hero, but he slowly grew on me - and as Tolstoy made his quest for meaning in his life a central theme, one cannot escape his influence on the reader.
All in all, reading "War and Peace" was not as scary as it seemed. I will probably return to it with a greater patience and a more attentive eye later on, but for now I am satisfied with what I derived from it. I am endlessly impressed with Tolstoy's soft weaving of strings of life, history and coincidences. Tolstoy's ultimate point seem to be that history is the result of a thousand individuals working towards the same goal at the same time. Or that is, at least, my own interpretation of this giant work of art.