Sun & Sand & Sea & War & Peace.

After ebaying everything unloved and unworn in my wardrobe, we recently took a last minute trip to Kefalonia on the proceeds. Having little left to wear, my packing dilemmas were book, rather than clothes based. After much deliberation, I chose Tolstoy’s War and Peace (translated by Rosemary Edmonds) on the basis that I’d have plenty of time to devote to it, and it would be a memorable read – one which would be inextricably linked to fond memories of my holiday.

What a great choice it proved to be. Once I’d got past the first sentence, it was thoroughly engaging, and hard to put down. Having recently enjoyed the BBC adaptation, the characters were firmly cast in my mind. This helped me to remember who was who, although I do wonder how I would have envisaged them if I’d read the book first. As with many adaptations, only so much can be captured on film, and the novel is such a wealth of riches, it would be impossible to do it justice however good the adaptation. However, I do wonder how many people have gone on to read the book after seeing the series which has to be a good thing.

I immersed myself in Tolstoy’s masterpiece and read it in a little over a week, and it quite blew my mind. Life now exists for me as pre- and post W&P. I’m still astonished by the scale and breadth of the novel and yet also the fine detail, the subtle nuances, and the way that each character changes over the course of the novel. Tolstoy captures the tangled dysfunctions of family dynamics, the different shades of love – from the light, bright passionate flashes of infatuation to the sorrowful depths of self-sacrifice; the effects of war, felt by individuals and as a people; and the gradual corruption of those ambitious for power, wealth and status. All of human life is here.

War and Peace was a simply breathtaking novel. I had thought that once I’d finished reading  it, I could tick it off the list, but I can understand why so many people regularly revisit it, there is so much insight to be gleaned – far too much for a single reading. I’ll definitely read it again, and more slowly next time – I want to savour every page. If only I could always re-read it in Kefalonia, now that would be paradise!