|Cast of BBC's War and Peace - photograph Mitch Jenkins/BBC|
Go on, admit it. You haven't read War and Peace, have you? I hadn't, but after the beautiful epic of the recent televised drama, I decided that I should....so I am! The BBC drama ended all too quickly, and by rights should've had a further 20 episodes, and that would've given me then opportunity to lust after the stunning James Norton for a few more weeks.
I'm not sure what had put me off all these years. I can't understand why I put it aside in favour of a lesser tale. I think it might have been the thought of lugging the thick tomb about that had put me off (it's seriously thick!) or maybe the thought of the flowery descriptions...and the war bit. I didn't think I'd understand it; that it might be too intellectual. But it's not like that at all. It's bloody excellent. It's a descriptive piece, but the characters are full of life and I can see each one of them as clearly as if they were standing in front of me. The dramatisation has helped, of course, but had I not seen it I'm not sure I would have ever picked it up. It has dialogue, which I like and it has depth.
Many say that Tolstoy was a sage, some say he was mentally ill, but you can't deny he was inspirational. His beliefs of non resistance influenced the non violent resistance movement in particular directly influencing Gandhi. After reading A letter to a Hindu and The kingdom of God is within you, Gandhi, then a lawyer in South Africa, sought advice and permission from Tolstoy to reprint the essay. How amazing is that? A writer influencing and changing the face of the world and the future! (As an aside, did you know Indira Gandhi wasn't related to Mohatma? I'm sure you do, but one story goes that her husband was actually Feroze Khan who was then adopted by Gandhi as an adult so that she could take his name along with her fathers to ensure the great dynasty. The other story is that he was Ghandy, but changed it. Who actually knows?).
Tolstoy believed that the aristocracy were a burden on the poor and lived his latter life in a spiritual development. His wife wasn't too happy and apparently the family werent too enthralled by his beliefs or his writings. The sad thing was that he was embarking on a pilgrimage (to get away from his family?) but fell seriously ill enroute to wherever and ended up in Astapovo where the train had stopped and passed away in the station masters home. I read a short story by Rose Tremain a while back, fictionalising the account of the incident.
So there you have it. Tolstoy has been feted as the greatest writer of all times but he was also game changer. He's also at the top of the UK best seller list for the first time ever!
I bought War and Peace in the book format. After studying the preface, the notes and the 1000's of forewords that accompanied it I decided that I'd be better off downloading it to my kindle as the typescript was seriously titchy! I needed reading glasses and I don't use them!
I'm a third of my way through reading it and have barely put it down. Even the war stuff was interesting. Read it...you'll be pleasantly surprised!
The other day, Finn asked me what I was reading. When I told him, he laughed and said "Mimi said she'd heard you were reading this great new book called 'Leo's Toy Store' by Warren Peace. She wondered why you were reading a kids book!"