I have to admit, War and Piece intimidated me. The sheer size of it, the huge cast of characters and the fact that is a russian classic (I have that weird prejudice that Russian literature is difficult to read) really made me hesitate to read this book. But since I wanted to watch the BBC miniseries, I had to go on with it.
And I´m so glad I did, because I love this book eventhough it has its flaws. At times the war chapters felt like a history lesson, Tolstoys musings about the war strategies were most of the time too drawn out and there´s a huge list of characters and sometimes it was hard to keep track of them (keeping a list of the characters might be helpful). And I´m the first to admit that I had problems with grasping the motivations of the characters most of the time. Especially Pierre was making one odd decision after another and I kept scratching my head (I guess the Russian soul is a special one). But because of these flaws in the characters and because of the time I have spent with them, I became emotionally attached to the characters. Whether it being their feeling of happiness and love or their struggles with war, death and hardship, I kept turning the pages to see what is going to happen next and it´s been such a great experience to be in the same emotional turmoil alongside the characters.
There is one thing, though, that I didn´t like about War and Peace and this is the epilogue. It consists of two parts. The first part is about the characters and how they live their lives seven years later. I wish I hadn´t read this part, because all of a sudden I didn´t like the characters anymore. And I don´t think that the epilogue adds anything to the overall narrative. The second part of the epilogue consists of Tolstoys philosophical musings about war, history and why people act the way they do. And I didn´t find this to be particularly interesting. And yes, the epilogue is the reason why War and Piece didn´t get a five star rating from me.
But still, I love it and now I can proudly claim that I have read War and Peace in it´s entirety. It´s a great feeling.
According to my reading log, I read 83 new books in 2016. This doesn't include re-reads and the occasional book that eludes my cataloging madness. It was a pretty good year. Here are some highlights:
It was the year I read "War and Peace." Mostly just to be able to say I had. But I liked it. Not as much as I liked "Anna Karenina," but I did like it - especially poor Pierre. Tolstoy isn't kind to the big lug, but his progression through the story is fascinating. If you, too, want to honestly say you've read this big book, start around Memorial Day, commit to about a chapter a day, and you'll be done right around Labor Day (that's what I did).
Also missing from my reading log (because it wasn't my first time through), but still quite notable, was the fact I spent the first several months of the year reading the Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson aloud. I read the entire volume in college, and have dipped in and out many times since, but it's the first time in more than 20 years I've gone all the way through. And I put them out in the air with my voice. Very satisfying.
Three reading marathons, each in conjunction with seeing a favorite author read: Nine volumes of Sherman Alexie (and a total binge on his podcast with Jess Walter) before seeing him in February. Six volumes of Joy Harjo before seeing her in the summer, and four volumes of Michael Chabon before seeing him in December. I'm now almost a Chabon completist, with just the brand-new Moonglow, a couple of the movies, and graphic novels left. I also read Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe" in preparation for his visit to our university in March. Such a great year for author sightings. There were a few more, but not with accompanying book-binges. Thanks to my friend, C., for arranging the Alexie and Chabon trips for me!
When I went to Harjo's reading, I ran into an acquaintance from Graduate School, Denise Lajmodiere, and leaned she has had a book of poetry published. I got my hands on it in December, and it'll be read in 2017. Denise was visiting with her friend, Heid Erdrich, and I introduced myself and got to tell Ms. Erdrich how much I enjoyed her book, "The Mother's Tongue."
This was also the year I finally read Pat Barker's "Ghost Road" trilogy, as well as the actual collected poems of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Ticked off some more World War I books and this wonderful series I've neglected since learning about it in the '90s. Highly recommended.
For the record, here's a broad genre run-down of my logged titles:
Short stories/Poetry - 1
Mass-Market Romance - 17
Poetry - 10 (seems low, but several were longer "collected" volumes, plus I'm constantly re-reading poetry, and re-reads don't get logged.)
Short stories - 3
Literary and General Fiction - 21
Non-Fiction (could have been broken up into MANY sub-categories) - 19
Kids (YA and Middle-grade) - 5
Picture Books - 3
Memoirs - 2
What does 2017 hold? Well, I'm already working my way through August Wilson's century cycle, so plays are taking center stage in January. Other than that, all I can say is MORE. More books, more books, more books. Please.
I just finished the third volume of War and Peace and there has been a lot of war in this volume. I have to admit, the war parts are a bit of a slog. But this minor downfall gets evened out by the awesome (and admittedly crazy) characters and their insane lives. I mean, what is up with Pierre:
He decides to go to war (mind you, he is not a soldier), stumples upon the battlefield without realising it, stands in everybodies way at the most crucial point of the Russian forces, a constant smile on his lips, and after a few hours constant bombardment by the french troops he realises that people are dying and he just wants to go home. And upon coming home and learning that his brother-in-law and his best friend are dead and his wife wants a divorce (the way she wants to achive this divorce is just ludicrous), he decides to kill Napoleon.
Totally ridiculous, but so much fun.
"If I were not I, but the handsomest, brightest and best man in the world, and I was free, I would go on my knees this minute and ask for your hand and your love."
Pierre Bezukhov might not be the handsomest, brightest and best man in the world, but he is one of the best characters I have ever encountered in a book. I simply adore him.