Thursday, 1 November 2012

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy - a one word review

As previously mentioned on this blog, I recently finished reading War and Peace. (I'm just bragging, really.) I'll be the first to admit that my one word review serves no real purpose, but there's no other way of summing up Tolstoy's masterpiece in a single word:


Of course, I'm pointing out the obvious. The one thing everyone knows about War and Peace is that it's the size of a breezeblock.

In my view, it could've been the size of a house. In the hands of Dickens, for example, War and Peace would've been several times its length. The economy of Tolstoy's prose could almost be called minimalist. (Indeed, I'm sure it has been, several times. I'm joining the conversation a little late.)

Editing the book would take some doing. I'm tempted to argue that every single word needs to be there. The only way to shorten it would be to remove some of its sub plots.

The trouble is, there aren't really any sub plots. There are hundreds of characters, but arguably they all need to be there for the story to make sense.

Of course, you could say the same about any novel. Edit bits out and the book loses a percentage of its power. That being said, there are plenty of long, rambling epics that would benefit from shedding a couple of hundred pages. (Would it be sacrilege to suggest that certain classics would work better in abridgement form? Oh well, I've said it now. My delete key doesn't work. Maybe that was Tolstoy's problem.)

Anyway, despite its length, complexity and relentless misery (which at times makes the book an uphill struggle), War and Peace is highly recommended. If I'd written a four word review, I'd've said 'Long, but worth it.'

And now that I've said it, Tolstoy can rest easy in his grave.

Nice one, Leo. 

1 comment:

  1. Long, but wonderful. See - that's only three!