Tolstoy’s idea of the ease of happiness is what prevents War and Peace having a ‘proper ending’. With his aim of showing life as it really is, and his belief that happiness is, in fact, very ordinary and imperfect, ending the book with a climax wouldn’t have made sense. Endings really only exist in Art; in real life, the remaining people have the rest of their lives to live. That’s why not having a dramatic finale is actually one of the book’s strengths. When I finished the book I felt a sense of achievement. It wasn’t just that it was fifteen hundred pages long or that it took me a month to read. I really felt I’d learned something from this book in a way unlike any other. Perhaps I’m just trying to justify the time I spent (the Stockholm Syndrome of books), but I don’t think so. In any case, if you haven’t read it, go out and do so. The length is daunting, but I guarantee you won’t regret it.By Michael Bennett At times, when reading War and Peace, I began to think that the whole book is, in fact, an attempt by Tolstoy to keep his reader interested long enough to listen to his theory of history. Now I study history, so I really tried to be interested; and the historical bits about Napoleon and the Russian Campaign were pretty good. But Tolstoy’s historical theorising drags on as he repeats his message of inescapable, inexplicable inevitability. Luckily, this doesn’t matter too much. For, despite its title, War and Peace is best read not for the history, but for the characters. Discussing this book with other people, what seems to stick most strongly is Tolstoy’s incredible understanding of his characters: in no other author do you find such a firm grasp of the motives behind each one. This makes a big difference as to how you think about them; you can’t simply root for the hero and hope the villain dies, because you’re given an equal understanding of their needs and weaknesses. If there was a book to prove the phrase ‘to know all is to forgive all’, this would be it. Unlike his views on history, Tolstoy never explicitly sets out his views on morality. I can’t recall a single instance when he passes a moral judgement on someone. The strength of the book is that, by the end, you understand Tolstoy’s idea of right and wrong, and it is all the more powerful for the subtle, yet simple way he introduces it, showing motives and consequences. As the book’s morality is slowly revealed, so too is its sense of the possibility for happiness, in the personal quests all characters undertake. I was greatly influenced by the idea that you should be able to find happiness in almost any situation, if you consider the world in a certain way. This is what the book is really about; war is just a background, as Tolstoy himself admits.