Halfway-through with "War and Peace" and it occurs to me that even with the amazing scope of history, the drama of battles, and the cast of hundreds--among them, monarchs and Emperors--the book is just not anywhere as good as "Anna Karenina."
Mostly, I'm struck by how much better W&P would be with some editing...well, quite a lot of editing--I am an editor, after all!
Tolstoy was a gifted writer, of course, but he often fell prey to one of the writer's commonest traps: after writing some point quite clearly, he'd would write it again, in different words. Sometimes, he'd create a fine allegory or use a good metaphor for some situation his characters were in, but then, in case we didn't get the allusion, he'd state what he was sure we'd missed. I find that immensely irritating.
However, his ability to sum up a character in a few paragraphs is nearly unrivaled (Austen is a contender) and his descriptions of nature, as everyone knows, are usually compelling and always evocative.
This site has a good, short biography of Count Tolstoy, among others. He lived quite a strange and varied life.
Christopher Plummer was wonderful as Tolstoy in last year's film, "The Last Station"...Very vital performance...Helen Mirren was great as the Countess, naturally. I found the film to be slow, and flawed, but it sounds like it a good depiction of his last years.
On to the love story, now--Natasha has made her debut and the romance of the story is finally getting going....Or as Cap'n Russel likes to call them "the Rhoda parts" (one has to have seen or read "The Winds of War" to get this inside joke).