I’ve spent the summer working my way through a huge tome called “And Ladies of the Club” by Helen Hooven Santmyer and my version has 1433 pages (there are some more recent versions that have a few less pages). I recently likened it to an American version of War and Peace. That off-the-cuff comment made me think about the real War and Peace by Tolstoy (which is far, far better than ‘And Ladies..’). I once spent the summer reading W&P as one of the ‘must reads’ on my list. In the subsequent years I have tried and abandoned other books on my must read list (ie Lord of the Rings and Ulysses) but I loved War and Peace. The characters are compelling, story lines authentic and the writing is of course magnificent. After all this time, it has stayed with me as a challenging but worthwhile read. I see that there is actually a book out now called “Give War and Peace a Chance” (a nice nod to another great writer – John Lennon) by Andrew Kaufman. I agree. This book is well worth the effort, but I wonder how many of today’s readers will bother. In an age of instant gratification and a time where it seems that to compress written communication into the smallest possible package that can be sent with two thumbs is the norm, I suspect that Tolstoy will find fewer and fewer readers as time goes on. I don’t mind new great works of literature replacing the old in popularity, but will we really see the likes of War and Peace again in these modern times? Do give it a chance. Meet the Rostov family. Celebrate and commiserate with Pierre Bezukhov as his fates move him from innocence to disillusionment. Get to know a little about Russian history. There is so much going for this book, that I hope it continues to make personal ‘must read’ lists for generations to come.
I have read all three of Joseph Boyden’s novels, and while his most recent (The Orenda) is receiving great attention, my favourite continues to be his first. Perhaps it’s because I’m currently writing my second novel, which opens during WW1, and Three-Day Road is a tale from that time – but it’s much more than that. The sense of place (both the war scenes and those from Northern Ontario) are both intimate and grand. The psychological trauma and road to healing is truly magic and is so worth reading. While the Three-Day Road from the book refers to the journey of death, I think we all take our own versions of that journey towards enlightenment; our discovery of who we are and what is important to us.
What do you think?