Reviewed by Cade Mataya
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy acts as both a historical fiction novel about the Russian aristocracy during the Napoleonic Wars and as a philosophical discussion about life and death, poverty and riches, and war and peace. The book also serves as a critique of the predominant academic philosophies of the late 1800s.
The novel begins in 1805 as Russians begin to realize that Napoleon will invade their motherland and concludes in 1815 after the wars are over. The main focus of the novel is how certain Russian aristocrats in St. Petersburg and Moscow grow over the course of the decade. It is clear that Tolstoy meant for Pierre Bezukhov—an awkward, corpulent, wealthy, and intelligent drunkard—to be the main hero and mouthpiece for Tolstoy’s personal philosophy.
Overall, War and Peace is an outstanding novel that I highly recommend. From the first page to the last, Tolstoy is able to convey his message with aplomb without ever sacrificing the quality of the novel. While the characters are often meant to express some opinion that Tolstoy held, the characters still feel very real and are still able to hold very natural relationships with one another. In short, the book is a fantastic read that is very easy to become invested in.
Cade Mataya was a graduating senior in the Gifted program at Hahnville High. He enjoys politics, choir, and theater. He plans to attend the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he will major in Political Science with a minor in English.
Editor’s note: Book reviews are published throughout the summer and fall in agreement with Hahnville High School gifted English teacher Deborah Unger in conjunction with the Brown Foundation Service Learning Program and Unger’s “Adolescents Advocate Literacy” Brown Service Learning Grant.