Tolstoy’s Like a Bad Date Who Doesn’t Know When to Stop Talking About Himself

Bad Date

Almost exactly two years ago, I gave my mom and four siblings each a copy of War and Peace for Christmas. I’ve kind of been talking about it a lot lately.

The premise was to do a long-distance book group, at a nice and easy clip of 1200 pages in one year. That’s only 100 pages a month!  But I’ve since concluded that book group etiquette asks a commitment of at most 300 pages from each person at a time, preferably less. Although most of my family said they really wanted to read it, the execution itself was a little more… challenging. A year is a long time. 1200 pages is a lot of pages.

2009 came and went, but still I’d read only half. Then, in November of last year, with 800 pages under my belt, I decided enough was enough. And I finally finished, on Dec. 27, squeaking in just under the two-year mark.

And? It’s brilliant! Obsessed with the microcosm, Tolstoy deconstructs major historic events through the eyes of half a dozen characters whom we watch grow-up from childhood. He’s a starry-eyed romantic, yet he’s also one of the most weirdly hilarious guys I’ve ever read. Drunken frat boys wrestling bears, crabby old men with sneezing problems, Tsars throwing biscuits from balconies, anagrams of Satan’s name… When Tolstoy wants it to, the story really soars, and he’s the best drama queen that ever was a drama queen. Continue reading