Leo Tolstoy was born in central Russia in 1828. He studied Oriental languages and law (although failed to earn a degree in the latter) at the University of Kazan, and after a dissolute youth eventually joined an artillery regiment in the Caucasus in 1851. He took part in the Crimean War, and the Sebastopol Sketches that emerged from it established his reputation. After living for some time in St Petersburg and abroad, he married Sophie Behrs in 1862 and they had thirteen children. The happiness this brought him gave him the creative impulse for his two greatest novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). Later in life his views became increasingly radical as he gave up his possessions to live a simple peasant life. After a quarrel with his wife he fled home secretly one night to seek refuge in a monastery. He became ill during this dramatic flight and died at the small railway station of Astapovo in 1910.
Thanks to British narrator Frederick Davidson's performance, it is safe to say that there will not be a better recording of Tolstoy's masterpiece for some time. The heart of this drama is the metamorphosis of five familiesÄsome peasant, some aristocraticÄamid the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Each individual is immersed in experiences and conversations elucidating Tolstoy's themes of self-sacrifice and self-indulgence, anguish and ecstasy, diplomacy and deception, and religion and perdition. The complexities of character and plot are sometimes enigmatic, and names are often exhausting to recollect, but the genius of this book is everlasting. The impressive dialog sparkles with humor and wit, and the vivid scenes of battle are riveting. An entire universe is created by one of the foremost thinkers of the 19th century, and Davidson's exquisite narration heightens the perfection of this novel, regarded as one of the greatest in literature. Highly recommended for all collections.ÄBarbara Mann, Adelphi Univ., Garden City, NY
"There remains the greatest of all novelists--for what else can we call the author of War and Peace?" --Virginia Woolf