Leo Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE is an epic war novel, an exploration of family ties, and a manifesto of Tolstoy’s beliefs. Against the background of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in the early 1800s, WAR AND PEACE spans the social spectrum, depicting three families–their love affairs, intellectual struggles, and personal conflicts–and the cataclysmic effects of great events on their lives. At the heart of the book are Pierre Bezukhov, whose search for religious certainty (and his failure to find it) and for what constitutes a good life parallel Tolstoy’s own; the noble Prince Andrei, who serves in the devastating Battle of Borodino; and ardent young Natasha Rostov, who is loved by both men. Tolstoy originally foresaw an entirely different narrative arc for his novel, and at one time planned to call it ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, but by 1867, the book’s design, with its simple final title, was clearly set out, and the novel was published in 1869 after nearly 10 years of writing, rewriting, and rethinking. Tolstoy’s story moves easily between love scenes, the grim details of battle, and the daily lives of both peasants and aristocrats. His stated purpose in the novel was to demonstrate his theory of history, which is that it is determined not by the decisions of the great and powerful, but by the sum total of many small individual acts of ordinary individuals. Because of its overpowering authority, its famous length (most editions run to over 1000 pages), and the comprehensiveness of Tolstoy’s vision of humanity, WAR AND PEACE is generally considered to be one of the world’s great books.