{Post by the Husband} Book Review: War and peace

February 26, 2013 § 2 Comments

Cover of "War and Peace (Shared Experienc...

Cover of War and Peace (Shared Experience)

There are some books which are universally known but seldom actually read.  During our first two months in Zambia, I read one of those books.  It was by far the longest book I have ever read, and it was also one of the most rewarding.  The book was Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

War and Peace is set in Russia during the Napoleonic wars.  It is an epic historical fiction work that is based loosely upon the events of the era.  The story follows the affairs of 5 Russian families, exploring themes such as love, suffering, and class distinctions.  Tolstoy does a masterful job of developing his characters throughout the many years of the story, and his writing makes the reader feel as if he is living in the story.  But what I found most fascinating was Tolstoy’s concept of history which he demonstrates through the story itself and directly explains in the epilogue.

Tolstoy rightfully points out that most history is written from the perspective of kings and other influential figures.  However, he points out that often kings are as much subject to the whims of history as anyone.  Thus, in his opinion history is more accurately understood in terms of the decisions that are made  by millions of individuals, which are themselves linked to all the circumstances and decisions that have come before.  Tolstoy thus presents a strong argument for predestination, although not necessarily from a Christian perspective.  He states that when we make a decision, we feel as if we have made it freely.  But the further we are removed from the time in which we made the decision, the more obvious it becomes that the surrounding circumstances of our decision are usually such that our decision appears far less free.  His argument is thoughtful and convincing in many ways.

This book was long but was worth the time invested in reading it.  I recommend it wholeheartedly.



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