A Year-Long War and Peace Readalong

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Staring a 1455 page book straight in the eye, so to speak, is incredibly daunting. I wonder if it is realistic that I will stick with it? Like many classics, War and Peace is a book I have always felt I needed to read at some point in my life. And while I greatly enjoyed Anna Karenina last year, this book beats that one by many, many hundreds of pages.

Russia

At only 4 very short chapters in, though, I know what will sustain me throughout this year-long readalong and it is what I remember from Anna Karenina: the way Tolstoy describes his characters intentions, their inner thoughts as well as their outward appearance. I am a visual person. It’s how I learn things. I need to see and do a thing to make it stick, to make me understand it. Tolstoy’s descriptions of the myriad characters that populate his books allow me to see them visually creating a life for them in my head, which is how I have experienced reading since childhood; descriptions of time, place and intimate surroundings rounding off the pictures I need in my head.

Because there are 361 chapters in this book the readalong host Nick Senger has created a ‘chapter-a-day’ reading schedule and my expectations are high that I will finish. The character list for War and Peace is a page and a half, but I know I will ‘see’ them all. It is early yet, but the characters have drawn me in with their appearance, their humor and their thoughts.

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Some characters we are introduced to so far:

Prince Vasily always spoke listlessly, like an actor repeating a part in an old play…like a wound-up clock, saying by force of habit things he did not even expect to be believed.

Anna Pavlovna was brimming with zest and animation, despite her forty years. To be an enthusiast had become a social attitude with her, and sometimes, even when she did not feel like it, she became enthusiastic in order not to disappoint the expectations of those who knew her.

[Prince Andrei Bolkonsky]…it was obvious that he not only knew everyone in the drawing room but was so thoroughly bored with them that he found it tedious either to look at them or listen to them. And among all those faces he found so tiresome, none seemed to bore him so much as that of his pretty little wife.

Princess Ellen smiled; she rose with that same unchanging smile, the smile of a perfectly beautiful woman, with which she entered the drawing room….Ellen was so lovely that not only did she show no trace of coquetry, but on the contrary, appeared to be almost embarrassed by her undeniable, irresistible, and enthralling beauty….[She] leaned her plump bare arm on a little table….The whole time the story was being told, she sat erect, gazing now and then at her beautiful round arm resting lightly on the table, or at her even more beautiful bosom, on which she readjusted the folds of her gown…

Ippolit struck one not so much by his remarkable resemblance to his beautiful sister, as by the fact that despite this resemblance he was surprisingly ugly. His features were the same as hers, but while his sister’s face was lit up by a perpetually beaming, complacent, youthful smile, and her body was of a singularly classic beauty, his face was overcast by an idiotic and invariably peevish, conceited expression, and his body was thin and weak. His eyes, nose, and mouth all seemed to be puckered into a vacant, bored grimace, and his arms and legs always fell into unnatural positions.

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It’s rather unwieldy to read this in mass market form!

Have you read War and Peace? What did you think?

We are using this hashtag on Twitter for daily quotes from the book if you want to see what we’re up to! #warandpeacereadalong.

19 thoughts on “A Year-Long War and Peace Readalong

  1. Thrilled that we will be sharing so many books this year Laurie. Because I’m still reading Moby Dick as well as W&P, I tend to read ahead a few chapters about twice a week, schedule my tweets for those chapters, then I can read my other stuff for the next few days.

    Like you, I’m struggling with blogging time, reading so much at the moment means I have a backlog of reviews I want to write up, though. Oh well, it will even out in the end.

    Love the character quotes – I’m making my own family tree on the back of the reading schedule, but it’s getting messy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • In my edition of W&P there is a character list. And I just can’t get over why they all have so many names and Tolstoy often refers to them interchangeably. I have to keep flipping back!

      Yes, I am struggling with writing for this blog at the moment as I am developing another project and that is where I am doing most of my writing. Once I get that going and have more balance in my life I will not be so stressed about writing reviews. I may utilize Goodreads and Insta more to stay accountable where I don’t have to write so much and then do a monthly wrap up here for a few months. We’ll see.

      This is going to be such a great reading year. I am happy with the challenges I entered as well as the readalongs. Such a wonderful book community ❤

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  2. These snippets you have quoted are enough to make me want to read War and Peace myself. Owing to the show don’t tell mantra which has been over symllified and taken out of context somewhat, I think these descriptions of people and places have kind of gone out of fassion in contemporary fiction, which is a bit of a shame really. As a blind reader, I find such descriptions essential in order for me to enhabbit the world of the novel, so I think Tolstoy’s style would probably appeal to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My family sings about the characters in War and Peace a lot (we like the songs from The Great Comet of 1812–Balaga the troika driver is one of our favorites). I hadn’t reread the book since I was a teenager until Walker was in college and so enthusiastic about it. He had an entire college class focused on the novel.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This looks SO FUN, but I know I’ll be too busy to finish this year. I’m excited to see so many people reading Tolstoy. I’ve read half of this one and Anna Karenina. SO MANY ABANDONED BOOKS, lol. Anyway, I surprisingly liked what I read. I expected this one to be more difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your portraits of these early characters have me hooked, Laurie. I have read War & Peace but many years ago at an age when I read it purely to say I had done so. Sadly, I took almost nothing from the experience. Hence, I am very tempted! But I know I won’t maintain the schedule and I have told myself to step back from challenges this year. Nonethless, I shall enjoy following along 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Last year I found myself pulling back from challenges I had signed up for, so I understand how that goes. This year, I am not sure how much I will blog here, as I find myself sharing more on Instagram. I am still reading, but I am finding life and other interests are sometimes more important that writing up a book!

      I must tell you this, though….After I read A Single Thread, I raved about it to my mom, who is also an avid reader and she was intrigued. She belongs to a book club and in December the members make suggestions for titles to read the next year and she just told me it’s on the schedule for September. Just think, your review had a ripple effect far across the Pond to a little book club in a small town in California!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Isn’t that fantastic! Also, after you posted about the reprinting of Ceremonials of Common Days I contacted the lovely owner of the shop selling it and she was so kind and took great trouble as we tussled with shipping charges. The cost was prohibitive but I’ve since sourced some travelers who will hopefully be able to bring home a few copies for me to keep and to give to friends. The joys and far-flung benefits of blogging!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Good luck with this chunkster! I would like to do the chapter a day read – but it’s not happening this year. From Les Miserables I know it can be very rewarding but it’s also a big commitment.

    Big unwieldy books are one thing that won me over to e-books. I do love the physical book in all its glory, but when it gets to be such a chore to lug around, I appreciate an alternative.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I do have a Kindle, so downloading a copy should be no problem. I didn’t think about that at first and was thrilled to find it in a great little bookstore I go to!

      I was so tempted by the Les Mis readalong, but the timing wasn’t right. I so enjoy these community readalongs for the the support and encouragement ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am reading the wonderful War & Peace for a read-along at a chapter a day. I’m so glad I’m reading this book slowly. There are some wonderful comments so far. I’ve never read anything by Tolstoy but have been wanting to for years.

      I originally bought the trade paperback of W&P and it was just simply not manageable. I prefer hardback books by far, but, this one is a bit too unwieldy for me. So, I downloaded to my iPad and am enjoying it very much. Another thing I really like the Kindle app for iPad is the ease of making notes and highlighting things you want to refer back to.

      Liked by 2 people

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