Author: Leo Tolstoy, Henry Gifford, Aylmer Maude, Louise Maude
Summary: This is Tolstoy, so it was meandering, but it also had the same wry sense of humor I appreciated in Anna Karenina.
For so long, I was having trouble devoting time to my blog because all my social media time was being sent on the Science March. So, of course, as soon as I finished working on the science march, I decided it was a good idea to pick up War and Peace! I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time and when Penguin offered to send me a beautiful, new printing they were doing, I couldn’t say no. Since the physical book is largely what distinguishes versions of classics, I will note that this is a really well-made copy. I particularly loved the ribbon bookmark for this enormous book!
This particular version of War and Peace actually also had some more substantial differences from other copies since it’s a new translation. I have to admit, however, that I chose to read an older translation and did not actually read this copy. I’d feel worse about saying that about a review copy, but I think many of you will prefer this new Penguin edition for the same reasons I passed it up! After reading the translator’s note and the first few chapters in this copy, I found that it was written in a much more accessible way than the 1968 Ann Dunnigan translation I ended up reading. The language flows more naturally, the sentence construction was less complicated, and racial slurs were removed. However, I decided that I was only going to read this book once and I wanted to read a copy that felt old and translated. To me, part of the appeal of classics is that they’re written in an older style.
The story itself was the rambling narrative I expected from Tolstoy. Instead of digressing about the Russian peasant as he does in Anna Karenina, he digresses about how historians ascribe causes to events. I found those sections far more annoying than the Russian peasant bits of Anna Karenina. This might be because the point he was making was less tangible and harder for me to follow. I also thought this was a more sprawling story. There were far more main characters than in Anna and the story included both social scenes and scenes of war. I just felt more bogged down than I did in Anna Karenina. I did still love Tolstoy’s sense of humor though. His sly observations about society remind me of Austen more than anything else. Unlike Anna Karenina, I’m not sure that sense of humor made it worth slogging through such a long read though! I’d definitely recommend Anna Karenina over War and Peace if you’re looking to tackle a novel by Tolstoy.