Sanrock Reviews

looking at things from a literary viewpoint

Let’s Talk About Reading War and Peace

War and Peace is considered one of the greatest pieces of fiction that came out of the 19th century. It is also one the longest pieces of literature that came out of the 19th century. There have been a ton of jokes about War and Peace’s length, especially from Charles Schulz in his Peanuts comic. Who can forget Snoopy saying he’s only on the first page for a week and Charlie Brown carrying the book on a wagon because it weighs a ton.

That’s one of the biggest reasons people have with reading War and Peace: It’s insanely long. Of course, lots of books people love are long. Look at the last three Harry Potter book, the Lord of the Rings and almost every single scifi and fantasy book. People love and read this books all the time. Another reason could be it’s a 19th century book. That can’t be right because look at how many started reading Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights because of (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Twilight. I think I need another drink for saying that.

There has to be another reason, right? After reading 200 pages over the course of six years (yes) I can safely say one reason is the writing. Don’t get me wrong, the writing isn’t bad at all. It’s just that it is really dry with long stretches of people sitting around talking about politics. You see, a lot of the dialogue is foreign to us 21th century folk. The politics of the time is lost to many of us. We do know about Napoleon, but the small details are lost to many of us.

Then there’s the random French and Latin. The first 100 pages of the book is full of it. The problem here is that, unless you’re an avid 19th century literature reader or an English lit major (same thing) this is like driving down the road and then hitting a brick wall that came out of nowhere.

Then there’s the fact that there are a ton of characters. The beginning of many editions show a list of every character and who they are. While normal in the 19th century, modern readers will forgot a lot of these characters characters, especially since they all have Russian names. Of course, you can train yourself to do that, but many people don’t bother.

It’s because of these reasons people generally give up on the book (like I did years ago and started the book up again just recently) and don’t look back. Then there are rabid fans of the book who will defend it as a masterpiece. I knew a college professor who read the book FOUR TIMES! That’s dedication right there.

War and Peace may be a classic and a masterpiece, but many people will give up on it or refuse to read it for one or multiple reasons stated above. Of course, there is one great way to read this and any book: form a reading group. Yes, this works wonders. Not only can you read the book but you and a bunch of people will read it along with you and exchange ideas. This is probably the best way to read these long, hard books. I know I’m not giving up on the book. I’ll finish it even if it kills.

Finishing a book before it kills me? Reminds of another book I just can’t force myself to finish for multiple reasons…

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