War and Peace

the BBC adaptation of the novel by Leo Tolstoy


 

War and Peace is one of those novels which people rave about as being brilliant, if you can actually get through it. I think more people fail to finish, or even start- scared off by the length of the tome, and the multitude of character to try and sort out.

I kind of cheated. My friend lent me the BBC miniseries. At six hours, divided over 4 episodes, it is not a small undertaking itself. My friend has read the book and watched the series, and assures me that it is a faithful adaptation, and a little easier to get into- the characters are easier to keep straight when you can look at them, rather than trying to remember all the Russian names.

And it is wonderful.

The costumes and scenery are lavish in the cities, and starkly beautiful in the countryside. The characters are believable, and showing a range of different elements of the human psyche and personalities. There is romance and the pragmatic, cynical persuit of maintaining social strata and money. There is the strain of familial obligations, the triumphs and wound of war, death of old and young. It is an encompassing view of Russian Society in the early 1800s, when Napoleon goes to war with Russia.

But aside from being a well done romantic and historical work, I think what has made War and Peace renown as one of the finest literary works in the world, is the philosophy. Two of the main characters, Pierre and Andrei, struggle with existential issues like what can I do to make my life worthwhile, and how can I be happy. I think these characters express feelings that are universal to us all, and we can both connect with them and learn from them.

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