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War and Peace has the worst opening sentence of any major novel ever, says Philip Hensher in the Saturday 23rd January review section of The Guardian.

He goes on to say that the proposition in its closing sentence – also one of the worst ever – is nonsense.

But none of this is relevant because what is in between is ‘not just great, but also the best novel ever written – the warmest, the roundest, the best story and the most interesting.’

I devoured War and Peace after watching the BBC 1972 serial. Schoolgirls up and down the country were all doing the same thing, inspired by adoration of Alan Dobie playing Andrei Bolkonsky and Anthony Hopkins as Pierre Bezukhov.

But the aspects of the novel that excite your interest and sympathy when you are young change when you read it later in life; everything you feel about the characters is different – and will change again on another re-reading. Rather like Middlemarch…

You’ll read it in ten days, maximum, says Philip Hensher, and by the time you reach the end of the First Epilogue you’ll wish it could go on for ever.

 

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