I finished reading War and Peace a few weeks ago, and typed this up, afterwards.
I am amazed how quickly War and Peace flew this time. I started it a few years ago, and somehow didn't have time to get very far. I thoroughly enjoyed this lengthy narrative this time, following the lives five Russian noble families throughout Napolean's campaigns against Russia. Such stories and characters Tolstoy crafted and intertwined! And I could have kept going, reading on about the children's lives, had it been possible. One night I even dreamed of a calvary battle...
Admittedly, I did issue a few sighs as Tolstoy's essays on war, history, and freewill interrupted the story. Though this does not mean that these opinions were not interesting, and some were quite ironic.
I find Tolstoy to be quite an evangelist, both in Anna Karenina and in War and Peace. Through his characters, namely Prince Andrei and Count Bezukhov, Tolstoy challenges surface reality and explores individual quests for truth. Much of Tolstoy's life and spiritual journey is reflected in these characters also, as it was in Levin in Anna Karenina.
At the end of the book, post wars, Pierre challenges government failures, asking and seeking to act on “What do we do?” The characters have differing responses, each valuing something else more. This is always challenges me, "What am I to do?"
War and Peace was truly cross genre – historical and romantic fiction intermixed with essays critical of how history is recorded and interpreted. His novel itself is history, portraying levels of reality through fiction.