47. ‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy

There is nothing I can say about this wonderful book that has not been said before, so instead, I’m going to tell you two stories.

First, mine. The original TV adaptation aired on the BBC in 1972, when I was ten, and there were only three channels, and we were super lucky to have a colour TV. It was directed by John Davies, scripted by Jack Pullman, and I fell in love with it.. I was a bit of a nerdy kid! And it really was wonderful: Alan Dobie as Prince Andrei Bolkonsky became my idol and obsession, and a young Anthony Hopkins played the life out of Pierre. By the time it finished, it would have been around Christmas time, and in those days, one present you were almost guaranteed to receive from an Aunt or Uncle was a Book Token…who remembers them? I do, with great fondness.

So. After Christmas, I hauled my Mum off to the local book shop in Purley to buy a copy of ‘War and Peace’ with said Book Token. I believe the last book I had bought there was ‘Black Beauty’, which still makes me feel emotional just thinking about how upset I was reading it, and I don’t even like horses that much! I was definitely a regular customer, as well as an avid user of the local library. Told you, I was a nerd!

The edition at that time came in two volumes; I found the first, and presented it and my Book Token to the proprietor… who asked me who I was buying it for. Well, me of course! I retorted, upon which he said if I did in fact read it, and could answer some questions about it when I went back for Volume 2, he would GIVE me Volume 2. I remember clearly feeling a little miffed – of course I was going to read it!

As I said, I was a proper nerd, read Volume 1 in about ten days, much of it under the bedspread with a torch….and promptly whipped off back to the bookshop. Alone, this was the early Seventies, people were still nice generally. And, he was as good as his word – tested me on my knowledge of Volume 1…and gave me Volume 2. What a man!

Since then, I have re-read it at least three times. The last couple, I skipped through the battles, which are described in great detail, and the VERY long passages about Pierre’s Masonic adventures, concentrating on the wonderful love stories and the descriptive passages…who could possibly forget Sonya and Nicolai’s sleigh ride, or the ball where Andrei sees Natasha in her white gown, and decides to marry her if she asks her cousin to dance…

The second story is a bit shorter, and reveals just why the inscription in Mum’s copy reads ‘Finally!’. In 2016, the Beeb did another adaptation of the novel.. I have not seen it, I confess, I was living in Indonesia at the time,  but Mum was really enjoying it…and perhaps foolishly, admitted to never having read the book. Shamed her into it!

Hence, the triumphant inscription ‘Finally!’ in her copy! (Plus a tear out from the Radio Times with the characters from the 2016 version, which was tucked inside)

I honestly think this would be a Desert Island book for me. It is undoubtedly meaty, dense, and wordy. It is one of the ‘classic’ novels, and for good reason. It is an easier read than Anna Karenina, which is in my mind also a Must Read! And, that’s a BeckyandVince Russian Doll book thong in the pic. Seemed appropriate.

So. Have you read it? If not, why not…I honestly believe it is a Must Read – and would you like Mum’s copy, in which case, please get in touch either here or through the FB page, and I will gift it forward to you with love from Mum and I.