Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Cold Day in Minsk

Sam Malone, the fictional Cheers bartender and owner... in one of my favorite episodes said that the next time he read a book to impress a babe, it would be "A cold day in Minsk."

He said this after reading Leo Tolstoy's massive "War and Peace", to impress Diane Chambers and one of her "snooty" professors.

How does this concern the self proclaimed Sports Doofus?  Well, as part of a ridiculous deal I made with myself a few years back, I try to read at least one "classic" each year.  Over the past few years I have read: "Little Women", "The Count of Monte Cristo", and "Don Quixote".  (and a few others).

Coming in at 1,296 pages, this has got to be close to the longest book I have ever read. (although there a few Stephen King books in that range).

As I have noted many times before, I'm not a book reviewer, or a literary critic... but sometimes I like to talk about books.

Well, what can I say about "War and Peace" other than it's long, like really long?

It's a good book.  It covers a number of Russian families (Most notably the Rostov's and the Bolkonski's), during the early 1800's in Russia.  This is the time in which Napoleon was invading Russia.

It was originally published in 1869, and was of course, originally written in Russian.  The translated version that I read was the "free version" available from Amazon's Kindle store.

Tolstoy rotates back and forth quite a bit in the book between the main characters, and their families, and their lives (in both war and peace time), and the action of the war itself...discussing the generals, and the strategies, and etc, etc...

There's a little bit of everything in the story...death, destruction, love, temptation, adultery, financial trouble, criminal behavior, and basically anything you could imagine happening in a war torn nation.

A couple of thoughts:
1.  I enjoyed the book.
2.  Would I have read it had it not been "free"?  No, I would not have paid for it.
3.  I did gain a sense of "accomplishment" in finishing it.
(after all, it took me pretty much 3 solid months to finish after day after day)
4.  It was NOT an easy book to read.  There are a TON of characters, many of whom disappear for hundreds of pages and then reappear.
5.  Do I recommend it?  If you are a literary type...yes.  If you are just a normal casual reader, probably not.  Just watch one of the several movie versions, if you want to know what it's about.
6.  I am glad to be done.  Whew!  That took forever, and I'm ready to read some books that were written, you know, in this century.

Another Point of Interest:  War and Peace is going to be made into a Television Miniseries by the BBC in the coming year.  So, if you want to know the story without reading the massive tome... it is on it's way.

So while I am glad to be done reading about Pierre, Natasha, Nicholas, Mary, Andrew, Helene, and the rest... I am looking forward to seeing the BBC production, and also to see what they can do with such a massive original work to condense down to 6 episodes.

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