So was it worth it? Absolutely! Indeed, the hardest part isn't reading the novel itself — contrary to popular opinion, it's not difficult at all; it's just long. No, the hardest part is coming up with anything reasonably intelligent to say from 1,400 pages and three months of reading.
One thing I can tell you for sure; here's my favorite quote from the novel, about Pierre:
"And it was the lack of an purpose that gave him the complete and joyous sense of freedom underlying his present happiness."If you're unfamiliar, Pierre, a Russian nobleman who inherits a huge sum when his father dies, spends most of the novel on a sort of vision quest to find life's meaning. He carouses with women. He drinks heavily. He gets religion. He turns philosophical. And then mystical. But then he finally gets it, and the moment of his catharsis is one of the great moments of the novel. I loved it!
The thing that most surprised me about the novel is the much higher proportion of "peace" scenes to "war " scenes. Only about a third of the novel takes place on the battlefield, or deals with other men-at-war-related stories, including a few chapters from the point of view of Napoleon, which were hilarious in that it was clear how much Tolstoy detests him.
But it's in one of these war scenes in which Tolstoy gets to what seems to be the point of the novel, inasmuch as you can pinpoint a single point in a 568,880-word novel.
"The course of a battle is affected by an infinite number of freely operating forces (there being no greater freedom of operation than on a battlefield, where life and death are at stake), and this course can never be known in advance; nor does it ever correspond with the direction of any one particular force."Just as true in war as in peace (life), yeah? This is an idea Tolstoy brings full circle in his (rather tedious) epilogue, in which he discusses his philosophy of history and argues that free will is false.
Anyway, so here we are, at the end of a three-month climb. And you know what the best part about it is? Finally (finally!), this photo I've been bandying about on this blog for more than two years isn't just a sad example of blatant grandstanding anymore. It's real. Yeah, this actually happened! Woohoo!