My indie book reading has been blown a bit off course recently. First by the 20p special offers that I wrote about a few weeks ago and now by War and Peace. Have you seen The Last Station directed by Michael Hoffmann? It's a fantastic film and we watched it twice on DVD. It tells the story of the last years of Tolstoy's life. He had a tumultuous relationship with his wife Sofya which lasted for many years and resulted in thirteen children. In his eighties Tolstoy makes a dramatic escape from Sofya and his comfortable home life and ends up at the tiny railway station at Astapovo where he becomes very ill and dies.
Seeing the film reminded me of the several attempts I'd made over the years to read War and Peace. On every occasion I'd managed a couple of chapters and given up. It's a huge novel: well over 1000 pages in the print version but some commentators say it's the greatest novel ever written.
I think there are two reasons I've never got into it. Firstly I've always found the Russian names so confusing and have got fed up with having to keep re-reading to sort them out; but the main reason is that the huge size of the book necessitates a very small print size which is uncomfortable to read. Now with the advantage of my light-weight e-reader I can adjust the font size and have already found that this has made some obscure classics more accessible. So, I've downloaded War and Peace onto my Kindle for the bargain price of £0.49p and this time am determined to read it right through.
As I said, War and Peace is massive: Book One set in 1805 has 28 chapters. There are fifteen books and two epilogues. Book Ten set in 1812 has 39 chapters. There are in fact 365 chapters in total so if I read one chapter each day it would take a whole year to finish it.
I decided to read one chapter and write a short précis to summarise the names of the main characters and key points in the plot. I did the same for the next fifteen chapters by which time I'd got the hang of who was who, how the various versions of their names fitted together and what was going on. Now I'm really into it and it is magnificent so reading time for indies is somewhat curtailed; but if anyone reading this has read War and Peace I'd be very interested to hear how you got on with it.