War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy, part I

Yes, really.

I am reading the Mt. Everest of books. No air packs, no sherpas, no Cliff's notes. Why? The only answer I have is that I am reading this book just to see if I can get all the way through this sucker.

Week one progress: 220 pages of 1455 pages. 1235 pages to go.

I finished part one a day or so ago, and am now in part two. Part one seemed like a clip from a Jane Austen novel. Lots of people, lots of parties, and a lot of social maneuvering. Many of the people I've talked to who mentioned having attempted this book said that one of the biggest problems they had was keeping track of the cast. Fortunately, my edition has a dramatis personae of the main families in this book and, so far, I am managing to remember most of the people in this book.

Part two is a lot more interesting. I'm currently following Prince Andrei Bolkonsky and Nickolai Rostov as they fight the French. I am not quite sure where we are in the timeline of Napoleon's Russian campaign. Somewhere after Ulm, but before Austerlitz I think. All I know is that we're somewhere at the end of 1805 and have seven more years of war before Napoleon retreats.

This book isn't that bad so far. It's just that there's a lot of it left to go.


Shelters of Stone, by Jean Auel

And now for something completely different...

I'm reading The Shelters of Stone just to find out what happens next. I've read the reviews and, having read about 8/10ths of the book, there really isn't anything that I can recommend about this book apart from the fact that you get the next segment of the Ayla and Jondalar saga. The characters are good, but no one gets to do much. I've read more than 400 pages but we haven't progressed more than a week or so, book time.

Most annoyingly, there seems to be an inordinate amount of recap in the book. Not only do the characters and the narrator recap what happened in the previous novels, but it seems like every time a character does something, they have to explain what they just did to other characters when they meet up again. It completely bogs down the narrative, and there's no point to it. This book would probably been half the size it is if it weren't for characters taking as long to tell each other what they were doing as they did doing it in the first place. And if I have to read another description of what happens when you knock iron pyrite and flint together, I may have to add this book to the short list of books I have hurled across a room in anger.

Jean, you have written great books, what happened while you were writing this one?