War and Peace is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature. War and Peace delineates in graphic detail events surrounding the French invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families. The novel can be generally classified as historical fiction. It contains elements present in many types of popular 18th and 19th century literature, especially the romance novel. War and Peace attains its literary status by transcending genres.
Tolstoy was instrumental in bringing a new kind of consciousness to the novel. His narrative structure is noted for its "god-like" ability to hover over and within events, but also in the way it swiftly and seamlessly portrayed a particular character's point of view. His use of visual detail is often cinematic in its scope, using the literary equivalents of panning, wide shots and close-ups, to give dramatic interest to battles and ballrooms alike. These devices, while not exclusive to Tolstoy, are part of the new style of the novel that arose in the mid-19th century and of which Tolstoy proved himself a master.
War and Peace tells the story of five aristocratic families—the Bezukhovs, the Bolkonskys, the Rostovs, the Kuragins and the Drubetskoys—and the entanglements of their personal lives with the then contemporary history of 1805 to 1813, principally Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. The Bezukhovs, while very rich, are a fragmented family as the old Count, Kirill Vladimirovich, has fathered dozens of illegitimate sons. The Bolkonskys are an old established and wealthy family based at Bald Hills. Old Prince Bolkonsky, Nikolai Andreevich, served as a general under Catherine the Great, in earlier wars. The Moscow Rostovs have many estates, but never enough cash. They are a closely knit, loving family who live for the moment regardless of their financial situation. The Kuragin family has three children, who are all of questionable character. The Drubetskoy family is of impoverished nobility, and consists of an elderly mother and her only son, Boris, whom she wishes to push up the career ladder.