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War And Peace opens at a party hosted by a socialite in St. Petersburg. At the party, the readers are introduced to five families whose destinies are followed throughout the book.
The party marks Pierre Bezukhov's entrance into St. Petersburg's society. He has been living abroad, and this is his formal introduction into Russian society. He is the illegitimate son and heir of Count Kirill Bezukhov.
The Bolkonskys live at their rural estate. They are a wealthy family whose head is the eccentric Nikolai Bolkonsky. His son, Prince Andrei, is married. Prince Andrei has a sister, Princess Marya.
The Rostovs are an aristocratic family who are in financial trouble. Count Rostov and his wife have four children, Nikolai, Natasha, Vera and Pyotr. They also have an adopted child, Sonya Rostov, who is an orphaned cousin to the Rostovs. There is also Princess Drubetskoy and her son Boris. They are both ambitious and cunning. There is the amoral and unscrupulous family, the Kuragins. The head of the Kuragin family is the scheming Price Vassily. He has three children, Anatole, Ippolit and Helene.
The story is set at the start of Russia's confrontation with Napoleon's France. As the political climate changes and peace breaks down, the fortunes of the five families are also affected. Andrei and Nikolai enlist and fight the invading French Army. For others like Pierre, life throws some special challenges. He emerges victorious in the conflict to inherit the family fortunes. But he has married Helene Kuragin and he gets tired of her various affairs. He becomes a Freemason and tries to find some relief through his new faith.
Meanwhile, Andrei is injured and returns home. His wife has died at childbirth and his sister is taking care of his child. Natasha Rostov falls in love with Andrei, but Andrei's father refuses to give his immediate consent and asks them to wait. During that time, Natasha falls under the spell of Anatole Kuragin and her relationship with Andrei is broken.
The drama grows as the characters try to sort out their relationships and their lives. Andrei becomes obsessed with developing a new system of military discipline. Pierre is driven to insanity by his personal troubles. Nikolai faces a conflict as he has to decide between keeping his promise of marriage to Sonya or marrying Marya to help his family.
War And Peace is one of the longest novels ever written. Epic in its sweeping coverage of the fortunes of five families and allied characters during the French Invasion of Russia, it is ranked among the best of Tolstoy's works.
About Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was an eminent Russian novelist.
His other works include Family Happiness, Anna Karenina, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Cossacks, and The Forged Coupon.
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born in Yasnaya Polyana in Russia in 1828. He was married to Sophia Andreevna Behrs, called Sonya. They had fourteen children. Their later life together was not considered very happy. After the Russian revolution, the Tolstoy family moved to Sweden, UK, and other parts of Europe. Tolstoy's ideas on nonviolent resistance is said to have inspired people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.