I just read 'War and Peace.'
And I don't mean I just read it this afternoon - I have, in fact, been reading 'War and Peace' for eleven months. It is the longest I have ever spent on one book, and I am exceedingly proud of myself. I feel like I have joined an exclusive club: those of us who have read 'War and Peace' versus those of you who have not (or have you? I know you are a most learned and well-read lot, so who's in this club with me?!). I know You Who Have Not Read 'War and Peace' outnumber We Who Have Read 'War and Peace' considerably, but we are each armed with an enormously heavy book, which I am sure would make an excellent blunt-object sort of weapon if it came down to it.
You can see it here, pictured in front of the pile of books I have been squirrelling away for nearly a year, ready to read when I finally finished the mighty tome:
And here is 'War and Peace,' victorious, on the top of the pile:
It was good! Not my favourite book ever (I cannot imagine I will ever be able to commit to reading it again) but it was very readable, frequently moving and awe-inspiring, and often very funny, which I wasn't expecting. It loosely follows three or four aristocratic Russian families, and I really got engrossed with all of them - I couldn't wait to get stuck into the first epilogue to find out what happened to everybody after the war was over and people started moving back into Moscow (did you know that Moscow was burnt down during the Napoleonic wars? I had no idea. Imagine that: an entire capital city burnt down and rebuilt, in the 19th century too). I could have done without the second epilogue - it doesn't continue the storyline but consists of Tolstoy's thoughts on the origins of power and the failings of historians - but by the time you've read 980 pages of the tiniest print you've ever seen, you feel like you might as well finish it properly.
I am going to miss its reassuring bulk in my bag every day (although I'm sure my spine won't!) but it will be so nice to get back to reading something which can fit into any handbag, something that will not have to be left at home during weekends away because it is just too damn big to fit into my bag along with everything else!
In the end it was perfect timing: my course starts in a couple of weeks so I'm getting stuck into Carl Rogers (and really loving it so far, by the way), but in addition to the twelve novels stacked above, I have another twelve waiting for me in my Book Depository wishlist. I am spoilt for choice, but I think my next novel will be either 'The Great Gatsby' (wouldn't mind reading it before the film comes out) or Patti Smith's 'Just Kids' - I just want something that is completely different from 'War and Peace.' Something short. Preferably in a nice large font.