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Reading Guide for War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Reading Guide for War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

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War and Peace is a massive book and can appear daunting to a reader who hasn’t experienced Tolstoy’s fiction before, but at the same time a page-turner, moving between a number of different characters at peace and war during the period of 1805 to 1813 at the height of the Napoleonic Wars. Tolstoy studied the history of the time in great detail, and also used his own experiences of the Crimean War to portray the realism of life on campaign and in battle. But yet this is also a story of love and romance, and the very nature of what it is to be human and to have a purpose in life – themes that Tolstoy explored throughout his fiction.

Reading War and Peace is well worth the time and effort. If you do get the opportunity to read it then here are some reading guide questions that you could use to make the experience more interesting. Alternatively, an ambitious book group can use these questions to spark discussion.

Reading Guide Questions for War and Peace

1. War and Peace has been called one of the greatest novels of all time. Do you agree with this assessment, and why do you think War and Peace has been awarded such plaudits?

2. How does War and Peace illustrate Tolstoy’s attitudes to war?

3. Do you think the author’s voice and opinions intrude too much into War and Peace?

4. Tolstoy said of War and Peace that it was “not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less an historical chronicle.” What do you think he meant by this and do you agree?

5. Did you feel that learnt more about the historical events described in War and Peace? Did the historical setting of the book make much difference to your appreciation of it?

6. War and Peace is a long book. Do you think it is the right length? Were you put off by the length, and how did you feel when you finished the book?

7. Which of the male characters did you have most sympathy with – Pierre or Andrew?

8. How does Tolstoy make the situations he describes, whether a battle or a ball, come to life for the reader?

9. There are a number of contrasting female characters in War and Peace: Helene, Natasha and Mary. What is your opinion of each of these, and what do you think Tolstoy’s views were?

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Reading Guide for War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

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